Puppy Forum and Dog Forums banner
1 - 20 of 20 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
68 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I hope this ends up making sense. I'm not exactly sure how to get across my point, but as I'm reading I see it suggested sometimes that one shouldn't use the word 'no' in dealing with their dog. Are there folks here who really don't use the word?

It's a negative word and concept, so does that mean that people don't use it within the scope of positive training at all? Bear with me here. I'm not a dog trainer by any stretch of the imagination and anything that I've learned in the last few weeks has been stuff that I wanted to learn strictly as a means to dealing with one specific dog with one specific set of behaviors.

I tell my dog 'no' when I want him to stop engaging in some activity, like gnawing on that spot of dermatitis on his side or sniffing out the trash. I tell him 'no' and he stops doing what he's doing. He seems to be well aware of what the word means. It does worry me somewhat in that I didn't teach him what the word means myself, so someone else did. I have no idea who taught him or in what context he was taught.

I'm probably just confusing myself. I feel like this question is silly, so be gentle please, but whatever insight I can get on how you all use this word within your relationship with your dog or in the context of training would be helpful as I'm just trying to sort this out in my own mind.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,428 Posts
I don't use "no" in the general context of "stop doing that". Instead, I use things like "leave it", "quit (doing whatever it is that I don't want you to do)", or else give them alternative behavior (if you can't shut the bleep up and let me read my book, do yardwork, whatever, you can darn well go back inside the house).

If we are training, and they aren't grasping what I want them to do, I might say "oopsie" or "nice try", or simple throw a cookie to reset them.
 
  • Like
Reactions: sven100

·
Registered
Joined
·
837 Posts
I think a lot of times we have to consider our own strengths and weaknesses in deciding what to do with our dogs. For instance, I know that in an emergency situation, say I've dropped something that would be dangerous for a dog to eat on the floor and the dog is going for it, I'm not going to wrap my mouth around, "Leave it." It's not going to happen. I'm going to shout, "No," in a panic. So my dogs all know and understand no. When it comes to less frantic situations, sure I'm going to use a kinder and calmer command, but I know myself. Dangerous? Me panicked? No! is what's going to come out.

Same with people who distinguish between Wait and Stay. I know full well if I start training Wait for some situations, I'm going to screw up and use Stay instead now and then. Better to just teach a Stay and let it mean Stay Until I Say Something Else.

I don't think an occasional frantic No! is going to do lasting psychological harm to my dogs. It never has, but then I've never had a quivering, nervous sort of dog, and I think that comes into play too in matching human to dog.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
11,445 Posts
It isn't so much that "no" is negative (any word can mean anything to a dog if tone of voice is negative or it was taught as a negative) but more that it is so broad.

We tend to think of "No" as in - do not do what you are currently doing- but the action a dog associates with a random 'no" may or may not be what you want him to stop doing AND doesn't tell him what he should be doing instead.

Sure, I say "no" or sometimes "nooooo" reflexively because I am an English speaking human.

But the goal is to interrupt the undesired behavior (I like "ah ah") and then immediately request the desired behavior (such as "leave it" or "drop it") or an imcompatible behavior such as "sit" if the dog is jumping on someone
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
676 Posts
One other thing about the word "No", is that it can (and very often does) come out in a harsh tone, especially in a 'heat of the moment' type situation. Since our goal shouldn't be to startle the dog, but to provide guidance in behavior that we human's deem 'proper' (remember, foraging in the garbage is a VERY proper behavior from a dog's point of view! lol) it's better if we try really hard to use something positive & instructive such as "leave it" to get their nose out of where we don't want it to be. We can teach this cue in advance of having to use it, so it has a specific meaning to the dog.

Is it going to do irreparable harm to the dog to say "No" once in a while? Probably not, but if you find yourself using it frequently, you might just need to remember to be more proactive in management. Also, you can always follow it up with a positive cue to the dog instructing him on a better, alternative behavior.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,680 Posts
As others have pointed out, the problem with "no" isn't that it's negative, it's that it's not specific. Commands like "leave it" or "off" or "hush" can be actively taught, whereas "no" is vague. "No" might work to interrupt an action, but there are better alternatives for most situations.

Another possible problem with "no" is that we say it ALL THE TIME outside the context of dog training. Sensitive dogs that are good at picking up human language can find this confusing or even upsetting if they've been taught that the word means they're doing something wrong.

I mean, it really depends on the dog and how you use the language. The thing to keep in mind is just that "no" might mean something different to a dog than it does to you.

I think it's one of those words that can be easily spoiled as a command, too. When I adopt adult dogs I pretty much always have to start with new alternative verbal commands for "come" and "stay" because owners often make those words meaningless to the dog by using them a lot and teaching them poorly. So when starting fresh with a dog it often makes sense to use words other than "no."
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
68 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts. I guess 'no' is a habit as much as anything and yeah, in a panic situation that's definitely my go to. He knows 'leave it'. He's really good with that one actually, but it's not what comes to mind most of the time. I guess I think of 'leave it' as something we do during our living room training sessions and then forget to apply it to the real life situations where it would be useful. I think I need to train myself to generalize with this one, lol.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
11,445 Posts
Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts. I guess 'no' is a habit as much as anything and yeah, in a panic situation that's definitely my go to. He knows 'leave it'. He's really good with that one actually, but it's not what comes to mind most of the time. I guess I think of 'leave it' as something we do during our living room training sessions and then forget to apply it to the real life situations where it would be useful. I think I need to train myself to generalize with this one, lol.
If you haven't separated "leave it" and "drop it" that can be a great thing to work on.

Leave It should mean never mouthing/picking up/pawing an item to begin with. Leave It is good for when you spot a dangerous item first on a walk, like discarded chicken bones, and want to prevent the dog from ever picking it up. Or for when you want the dog to not mess with something in your own house, like a snack plate on a table.

Drop It can be taught to mean just that, drop whatever is in the dog's mouth. It does not necesarily mean the object was bad to pick up to begin with. Drop It works for toys and tugs as well as for when a dog manages to spot an unwanted item on a walk before the human does.

Using them separate has two advantages.
One is that you can ask for a toy back without the dog thinking he should not have picked it up.
The other is that the dog doesn't build a sequence habit -- pick up bad item, then drop bad item, that's ok cause I left it (but if item was very dangerous, you want to avoid the initial picking up)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
68 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
If you haven't separated "leave it" and "drop it" that can be a great thing to work on.

Leave It should mean never mouthing/picking up/pawing an item to begin with. Leave It is good for when you spot a dangerous item first on a walk, like discarded chicken bones, and want to prevent the dog from ever picking it up. Or for when you want the dog to not mess with something in your own house, like a snack plate on a table.

Drop It can be taught to mean just that, drop whatever is in the dog's mouth. It does not necesarily mean the object was bad to pick up to begin with. Drop It works for toys and tugs as well as for when a dog manages to spot an unwanted item on a walk before the human does.

Using them separate has two advantages.
One is that you can ask for a toy back without the dog thinking he should not have picked it up.
The other is that the dog doesn't build a sequence habit -- pick up bad item, then drop bad item, that's ok cause I left it (but if item was very dangerous, you want to avoid the initial picking up)
Yep, I guess we'll begin working on 'drop it'. I certainly see the value of suggesting a specific action rather than just saying 'no, and I'd appreciate any other suggestions for commands like this that you all have found useful. As storyist said though I'll need to determine my capacity for remembering to use the proper command in context. I guess 'no' is kinda the easy way out. This might be a tough habit for me to break to tell you the truth.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
11,445 Posts
It IS a tough habit to break and I won't even pretend that I've broken the habit.

In an emergency, NO or anything really that you happen to wail as you lunge for the dog is OK.

But for stuff that is encountered daily like garbage cans, its good to aim for distinct instructions.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,428 Posts
I guess I've had lots of practice over the years, because "Leave it!" is usually the first thing out of my mouth when I drop something. If we are at home, and I want them out of the room (like I've dropped a dozen ibuprofen tablets), the nest thing is usually "Get!", meaning "go away from this area this instant!".
 
  • Like
Reactions: sven100

·
Registered
Joined
·
68 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I guess I've had lots of practice over the years, because "Leave it!" is usually the first thing out of my mouth when I drop something. If we are at home, and I want them out of the room (like I've dropped a dozen ibuprofen tablets), the nest thing is usually "Get!", meaning "go away from this area this instant!".
Oooh, 'git' would be a useful one too. Thanks for the suggestion.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
2,909 Posts
I do my absolute best not to use 'no' in training situations for all the reasons mentioned here - it's extremely vague and gives the dog no information about what I do want them to do. Even when I use interrupters, I try to be really specific about what I want each one to mean and therefore be consistent in how I use them. For example, I do use 'hey', but I've specifically only used it to mean "you're heading towards the end of the leash so I've stopped/am about to turn around" when we're working on leash walking, which means I don't use it when he's ignoring me to sniff a tree, or trying to eat something off the ground, etc. I don't manage all the time, but I try.

Around the house, we do use 'no' just out of habit/reflex. My wife is slightly worse than I am. The thing is, especially with our active teenager, just a 'no' usually results in him doing the same behavior again a few second/minutes later. When I try to be conscious about why he's doing a 'bad' behavior and offer him an alternative (such as ask him to get one of his toys to play with us rather than stealing something off the tables to get attention and interaction from us), I see way better results, immediately and in the future. It's just tricky to remember and be consistent when we may be working on the computer, making dinner, or otherwise not in the dog training mindset, but worth it to try to substitute instructive feedback for a vague 'stop doing that'.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
410 Posts
I use a lot of directional wording,, for going over icy slippery or dangerous surfaces like steps I say gently gently , so they know to walk really slowly..
Leave it, obviously when they are near something or I spot something dangerous for them.
Wait..
Out, if I want them to leave a room for any reason.
Step up /step off to get them up and down from cars exam tables anything really..

I suppose it depends on your dog . I used to have one that had a habit of eating nasty things .. I used the word spit a lot and even yelling SPIT at 50 yards I would see him spit out whatever it was he had found..

No just seems a bit blah and non descriptive when we have so many other much better words to chose from.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,926 Posts
I use No as a negative marker. The issue is getting No to have meaning to the dog and then rewarding IMMEDIATELY the correct behavior. To give No meaning it can be paired with No Reward or it can be paired with a physical aversive. A lot of R+ trainers do not like No and the reasons are stated above.

The biggest issue I see when people use No is that they do not replace the behavior they wish the dog to stop doing with another behavior they want the dog to do and then heavily rewarding the behavior they want. No is often used generally.. and on things that the dog has no concept of understanding as "wrong." The dog often also does not have a positive marker for when he does it right.. so there is that.

Let me give two examples.
1.) I have trained my dog to sit on command. When I as for sit he sits in the house, he sits in the yard, he sits in the dark, he sits in the park. I have generalized the sit command and when I want him to stop sitting I give a release word or I give a new command. I have rewarded the sit. I have marked the sit with a clicker or with yes. We are into intermittent reward schedule. He knows the command inside and out.

A day comes and I have the dog sit. He sits.. then, before he is released or re-commanded to do something else, he gets up. As he is getting up I say NO a bit sharply (you need to know your dog to know HOW sharply) and repeat the command to sit. The instant his butt hits the ground I mark it and reward. I have also coupled No with a collar correction (not at first). The point is for NO to be connected to a disobedient behavior and to do that the timing must be perfect and the reward for obedience must be 3 times stronger than the No marker.

2.) Your dog is in the house. You have a turkey sandwich on the kitchen counter. The dog, being a dog, starts to jump up to get the sandwich. You say NO. The dog continues and gets the sandwich. Now you go crazy.. chase the dog yelling NO NO NO... In this case the dog has learned nothing. He just knows you are mad and he has no idea what No means or why you are yelling at him for grabbing food which is what dogs do. You have done more to damage the relationship with the dog than teach him anything and you still do not have your turkey sandwich.

This second example No is useless. FAR better to have taught your dog "Off" when he jumps up with his front feet and then reward the dog the instant feet are on the floor than to use a general meaningless No. Now, this does not mean your dog won't grab that turkey sandwich and blow off your Off command or anything else you say and run for the other room gulping it down. In the second scenario you have made a grave dog owner error in leaving a sandwich on the counter and not first crating the dog!!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
185 Posts
This second example No is useless. FAR better to have taught your dog "Off" when he jumps up with his front feet and then reward the dog the instant feet are on the floor than to use a general meaningless No. Now, this does not mean your dog won't grab that turkey sandwich and blow off your Off command or anything else you say and run for the other room gulping it down. dog!!
I have a question about this. Our dog isn't allowed on the couch and never jumps up on it, but she sometimes gets on her hind legs and puts her front paws up there. Wouldn't rewarding her for getting four feet on the floor encourage her to put her paws up and then back down just to get rewarded?

Sorry if this is a dumb question.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
2,909 Posts
@Tater33 Only if you only ever reward the paws up - cue - reward on floor sequence. The trick is to also catch the dog right before they put their paws up, when they're standing-sitting next to the couch without trying to put paws on it, and to reward for the dog for continuing to keep their paws off after having to cue them off. Essentially, make sure that they're rewarded for four on the floor more often than they try to put their feet up and get cued off.

Some dogs will eventually 'get it' with just repeating the paws up - cue - reward sequence, though it tends to be a slower process. It depends on the dog, and on what the dog is trying to access with the paws-up behavior. If they're seeking attention and engagement from you, they may never fully stop the behavior unless they're taught that they can also access attention and engagement with an alternative behavior that keeps all their feet on the floor. Which is a good argument for trying to understand why your dog is doing the behavior so you can reward them with what they most want in that moment, which isn't necessarily a treat! Though treats can help too, lol.

We taught our youngest that bringing us a toy to play with is a more successful way to get engagement from us than pawing at us and/or barking, for example. Sometimes we do have to tell him we can't play right now, and sometimes he still tries to mug us for attention, but by selectively rewarding the desired behavior we wanted to replace the obnoxious one, instead of just trying to deal with the obnoxious behavior in the moment, we got a lot of improvement.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
185 Posts
@Tater33 Only if you only ever reward the paws up - cue - reward on floor sequence. The trick is to also catch the dog right before they put their paws up, when they're standing-sitting next to the couch without trying to put paws on it, and to reward for the dog for continuing to keep their paws off after having to cue them off. Essentially, make sure that they're rewarded for four on the floor more often than they try to put their feet up and get cued off.

Some dogs will eventually 'get it' with just repeating the paws up - cue - reward sequence, though it tends to be a slower process. It depends on the dog, and on what the dog is trying to access with the paws-up behavior. If they're seeking attention and engagement from you, they may never fully stop the behavior unless they're taught that they can also access attention and engagement with an alternative behavior that keeps all their feet on the floor. Which is a good argument for trying to understand why your dog is doing the behavior so you can reward them with what they most want in that moment, which isn't necessarily a treat! Though treats can help too, lol.

We taught our youngest that bringing us a toy to play with is a more successful way to get engagement from us than pawing at us and/or barking, for example. Sometimes we do have to tell him we can't play right now, and sometimes he still tries to mug us for attention, but by selectively rewarding the desired behavior we wanted to replace the obnoxious one, instead of just trying to deal with the obnoxious behavior in the moment, we got a lot of improvement.
Thank you so much for that post, very helpful. She is definitely jumping up for attention. She sheds A LOT, and if feel so bad that she wants to cuddle all the time but we just can't. I know she'd love to get on the couch and snuggle, but her shedding is just too much. She just seems to want a big hug and looks so sad when we don't.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
105 Posts
I try to never use the word no, because it’s such an overused word and what is it supposed to mean? Do you only ever use it to stop him from licking himself? Are you saying it in a sharp tone? Is he stopping because he knows what no means or because you’ve startled him?
If I said No to my dog, do I want him to stop licking, stop standing there, stop looking at me, or what? I would use more specific words / phrases with him like “leave it” if he’s licking at himself. Of course any cue you give him needs to be taught first. Like what does leave it mean? To me it means move your head away from what you’re going after. Then I mark and reward when he leaves it.
Here’s an interesting article on “No”.
http://www.urbandogtraining.com.au/...ation/why-you-shouldnt-say-no-to-your-dog.pdf
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
56 Posts
Additionally, you are only stopping a small part of the bad behavior. Lets say your dog is excited and jumping on people, if you tell your dog "No" when it jumps on someone it will still be excited.
 
  • Like
Reactions: sven100
1 - 20 of 20 Posts
Top