How to Say No to Your Dog and Have it Mean Something

December 10, 2021

When we teach our dog basic behavior like sit or down, we mark the good behavior with a word like “Good” or “Yes” and then reward with a treat or kibble. That gives a ton of value to the word “Good” or “Yes.” Once you’ve done that a couple of times, every time you say the marker word “Good” or “Yes,” your dog gets super excited and expects that treat.

We have to give the same type of value and meaning to the word “No.” To do that, what we have to do is mark the unwanted behavior, say chewing on a shoe, with the word “No,” and then give a correction to the dog for that behavior. The correction must be meaningful to the dog. This attaches value to the word “No” for your dog.

What is a correction? This can be things like a leash pop, an ecollar stim, squirt bottle, pet convincer, bonker (a rolled up cotton towel), etc. The level which is meaningful to the dog just depends on the dog. Some dogs are very sensitive, and some are not. However, if we see our dogs consistently making poor decisions like chewing shoes even after several corrections, then we need to up the level of correction, because it is not enough of a consequence for our dog to make a different decision.

With this established, we can let our dogs know a clear distinction between what we want (with “Good” or “Yes”) and what we do not want (with “No”). We can establish rules and boundaries using this clear communication with our dogs, and then we can hold our dogs accountable to those rules and boundaries. And because the dog understands there are consequences associated with the “No” that the dog cares about, the dog will make better choices in his behavior.

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