Courteous Canine: The Meaning of No!
by Jane Finneran, Certified Dog Trainer
To a dog, “No” means nothing! No matter how many times you say it or how loud, it just does not mean anything. I am one of the few dog trainers in Jackson County, and I get calls nightly. Often the conversation goes something like this: “My dog doesn’t listen.” I will then ask if the dog is deaf. After a pause, the person will tell me the dog can hear but does not do what they tell it to do.
Dogs do not come into this world speaking or understanding English. They do learn words through association. My dogs know words like, “cookie,” “car,” and “Frisbee,” which they have learned through association. A hand in the cookie jar paired with the word quickly reinforces the meaning. I have also taught my dogs hand signals and words for “sit,” “down” and “stay” (hand signals are so much easier to teach a dog than a word). What would “no” mean to a dog? Perhaps if it was associated with a punishment it would eventually mean something bad was about to happen, but that is not how I train my dogs. Punishment will very quickly ruin the relationship of trust with your dog.
So, rather than bombarding your dog with the word “no” or yelling at your dog, think about what you do want your dog to do instead. It is so much easier to teach a positive behavior that is incompatible with the negative behavior. If you don’t want your dog to jump up, teach it to sit. If barking is a problem, teach “quiet.” If chasing cars is a problem, teach “come.”
Reward based training is positively the best way to train a dog.