Anyone Can Train Their Dog
By Art Hess
Teaching the "NO" word
Most trainers today teach the positive reward based system where the “treat” is used as a “lure” to move the dog through an action or into a specific position, and upon achievement you “mark” the action with either a clicker or a marker word and then give the “reward.” This is by far the very best system for teaching the dog to do the standard sit, down, stay, etc. exercises.
At some stage the dog also has to learn that there are things he shouldn’t do or is performing incorrectly so obviously he has to learn the meaning of the word “No”. Yes I realize there are those that say you should never use the “No” word but trust me I get calls every week to come and address the problems created when a dog never learns the meaning of the word No.
The problem is many people think teaching the word “No” has to involve punishment when this is simply not necessary.
The dog learns that when he does things properly he is rewarded. Conversely, when he does something unwanted, wrong, or incorrectly, the action is “marked “ with a word such as “Wrong”. Many people use “No” but the problem is you started using the “No” word the day you got the dog and in most cases it is no longer effective. I personally use “Oops” because to me that is a pretty good description of an incorrect action.
Here’s how you teach that the “Oops” word means that you have committed a no-no. Put your dog in a stay and place a treat about a foot in front of him. Every time he moves toward the treat you say “Oops” or “Wrong” and you pick up the treat and put him back in a stay. At the outset you will have to repeat this action quite a few times.
Pretty soon you will see him stay for a longer and longer time and if you persist and proceed quietly he will stop moving toward the treat and you will be able to say “good dog” or “thank you” or use the clicker to “Mark” the fact that he did what you want and he now gets the treat. Remember the “marker”, verbal or clicker, is simply your way of telling the dog that he has done the right thing.
Voila! You taught “No” without jerking, pulling, yelling, or any other type of punishment. You simply took away something the dog wanted until he figured out what to do in order to get what he wanted.
There are other ways to use the “take something away that the dog wants” system that work equally well. The one we use early in the dog’s training is stopping the dog from jumping and lunging when you are feeding. You ask the dog to sit stay and you put his dish down and expect him to stay until you give him permission to go eat. If he moves toward the food before he is released you simply reach down say “Oops” and pick up his food and tell him to sit stay. It may take several repetitions but he will get the message that “no stay” results in “no breakfast”.
You can use exactly the same method when the dog goes “wacko” when you get the leash to go for a walk. You tell him to sit and if he doesn’t you say “Oops” and you put the leash away and go sit down. Again you, “take away something the dog wants.”
Hurray, you just taught the “No” word the thinking man’s way!