Monday, April 11, 2016

My dogs don't know NO...

Ah punishment, one of my favorite topics. My dogs don't know the word "no". I try to never use that word when I am training and I would encourage everyone else to stop using it, too.

Why wouldn't we want to tell our dogs no? The word NO does not tell the dog what you want them to do. Dogs do not understand right from wrong and using that word will not teach it to them. Using NO will not change your dog's behavior. Temporary suppression of behavior doesn't change the underlying cause of that behavior. At best you're just nagging the dog and at the worst you are causing the dog to shut down and that can make the dog become fearful of you. I don't know about you guys but I never want my dogs to fear me and I strive to have the best relationship with them that I possibly can. Using punishment can work (temporarily) but it ruins the bond and it makes the dog less likely to choose you over anything else in the environment. I see this all the time with other dog owners when their dogs refuse to come back to them.

You have to understand why the dog is doing the behavior and either prevent the behavior from happening using management, train an alternate behavior or counter condition the behavior to change the underlying emotional response. The word NO is just not useful in dog training. Plus, we say it so much conversationally with other humans that it just doesn't make sense to make it punishing for our dogs.

It's so much more important to be proactive in your training and ask your dogs to do something that they know instead of telling them off with a "no" or any other words that your dog finds aversive.  Stopping unwanted behavior can be as simple as using your recall, telling them to leave it or asking for a sit or down. In an emergency, I can yell "wait" and my dogs know that this a cue to immediately stop what they are doing, to freeze. Having this sort of cue available gives me a few seconds to figure out what I need to ask them to do next.

Solving unwanted behavioral issues can also be as easy as giving the dog another job to do. A lot of dogs display unwanted behavior because they are bored. Making sure a dog has had enough exercise and mental stimulation is incredibly important and helpful for preventing problem behaviors. So give your dog a job to do, challenge them mentally and make sure you are giving them enough of your time and attention. Buying them puzzle toys can also be hugely beneficial, so they have stuff to do when you can't pay attention to them.

Have I ever slipped up with the word NO? Of course I have. We are all human and sometimes we make mistakes. I have caught myself being conversational with my dogs with the word "NO" as well. It doesn't happen very often and because my dogs don't associate the word with punishment it doesn't bother them or really mean anything. When that happens I remind myself to tell my dogs what I want them to do and I use a cue that they know.

What is your most used cue with your dogs?


  1. We hear "stop it" a lot. It is kind of the other word for "no" around here.

  2. Makes sense to me. We used to give Little Bit a time out when she barked at the fish at the marina. Being a big dog she had a big bark. The time out worked and pretty soon she knew if she barked she'd have a time out. It worked.

    Have a woof woof day you two. My best to your mom. ☺

  3. I know I say no, when I should know better. I need to be telling them what to do instead.

  4. I use the word "No" sometimes with our cat Lucy- and it seems to stop her from scratching the upholstery or whatever she is doing - but most of the time I just distract her ....much easier. After all- she's a cat.

  5. I must admit, I definitely use the word "no" but I don't use it in a form of punishment.

    I do use it to help guide them towards what i'm looking for them to do, so when we're doing a training walk I'll say "no" as in - don't pee on that. Or "leave it" for food on the ground, I also use "Look" so we can pass things like other dogs. Or sometimes i'm lazy and say "no" when I should say a "leave it" as in around food.... but they get it. I definitely don't scream it at them or use it as most untrained humans do. :-) LoL

  6. I'm a Never Say No mom myself! I use their names the most. At the park it's Leoleoleoleoleo when I'm trying to get him to bring the ball all the way back to me. If he's doing something he knows he's not supposed to, he gets an "eh eh" interrupter.

  7. We don't know that word either! But we do know "eeeeh". Happy National Pet Day!

    Your Pals,

    Murphy & Stanley

  8. I fully admit to using no, just not as a form of punishment. It's my emergency leave it (and my "quit bothering the chickens cue....), and was trained just like any other cue. It's not forceful or correctional. :)

  9. I hear..'hey!" 'stop lickin' that', 'awwwt!' (that's my cue to stop lickin' too...☺), I also hears...move, come, what are you doing...I could go on, butts sometimes Ma says 'no' too, butts it's usually a startling tactic when I'm abouts to do somethings dangerous. which OF COUSE i NEVER do....
    Ruby ♥

  10. I agree with you 100% - what a great message to spread! I have slipped a few times on "no" but I screamed it in a panic, and it worked (probably because I had never used a nagging "no"). The last time I used it, Shyla had actually caught a tree squirrel and had it in her jaws. I screamed "no" so loudly that she dropped the squirrel, and he survived. It was totally instinctive on my part. I never use "no" in more controlled situations.


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