What “No” Really Means

Many dogs think “No” is the second half of their name: “Buddy No! Tristan No! Molly No!” There are a few inconsistencies with the way people use this little word that leaves dogs baffled as to its meaning.

For starters, “No” is usually shouted. Shouting to a dog sounds like barking. Would barking excite a situation or calm it down? “No” is used with the dog’s name. In my book, you should only use your dog’s name when you’re happy, not mad. “No” is said after the action has occurred.

If I yelled at you after you ate a bowl of soup (or even while you were eating it), would you understand that I was upset at you for opening the can? “No” said at the wrong time communicates nothing. Finally, “No” is said repetitively; “No, No, No, No,” sounds different than “No,” again confusing dear doggy.

What’s an owner to do to teach a dog not to get into trouble? Fortunately, I have the answer. To teach your dog this concept, you must set up situations to catch your dog in the thought process. First we’ll work indoors; then we’ll go out.

Tip: If you don’t like to say “No” word or sound. Just be consistent. Personally, I like “Ep Ep.” It sounds softer, but the dog gets the message “Don’t even think about it!” loud and clear.

Indoors, put your dog on his Teaching Lead®. Have someone secretly place a piece of cheese on the floor in a neighboring room. This is your prop. Follow these steps and pay attention to timing!

  • Bring your dog into the heel position and casually walk toward the cheese.
  • The second your dog notices the cheese, snap back on the lead and say “No!”
  • Continue to walk like nothing has happened. Remember you’re the boss. No means No.
  • Walk by the cheese several times to ensure that your dog got the message.

Your dog has a built-in antenna system. Can you guess what it is? It’s his ears. If his ears perk up, your dog is alert. When teaching “No,” watch your dog’s ears. Correct your dog the second he is alerted to something inappropriate.

After your indoor training, practice “No” when you’re out for a walk. When your dog notices a passing jogger, car, kid, another dog, or two tidbits climbing a tree, say “No” just like you did with the cheese. Sidestep away from the temptation to emphasize your snap. Continue to snap each time the antennas flicker. Praise your dog for focusing on you and relaxing his radar system.

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