When ‘No’ means nothing

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How often do we use the word ‘no’ to stop our dogs from doing this or that?

If a dog is jumping up, pees in the house, digs, barks or pulls on lead we yell ‘no’.

I am old enough to remember Joyce Grenfell and her Nursery School sketch. She tells them ‘Sue, let go of Neville’. “Geoffrey, stand up dear”, ‘Sydney, both feet, don’t hop’ But the one line that stands out most is ‘George don’t do that’. Poor George, where all the others have been given something to do he just gets told what not to do.’no’ is possibly one of the most over used words in dog training and yet it quite likely has the least meaning to your dog. I often have owners assure me their dog knows what it means. But if he really understands then why must they have to repeat it, increasingly angry, often accompanied with a physical punishment and still end up having to stop them such as pull them off jumping up, take slippers off them etc. What does ‘no’ or ‘don’t do that’ mean? The problem is that it is vague and devoid of instructive content. ‘No’ may convey they have done something bad but it doesn’t tell the dog what you do want. Dogs that hear it all the time may give up offering any behaviours because they are afraid of getting it wrong, or they learn it has no real relevance and ignore it. Some dogs may find it a way of getting the owners attention. Dog jumps up and you say no and push the dog down giving it the attention it craves. Perhaps if Joyce had said “George, don’t do that do this and followed up with a clear instruction. Teach your dog what you do want him to do. Teach them a recall or to walk on a loose lead. Leave it if they are about to steal a steak of the kitchen counter. Sit if they are about to jump up at a visitor. Give if they have your slipper.

If you have training issues and need help then get in touch with a force free, accredited dog professional, such as myself who can help advise you further.