Cheryl May's Questions and Answers

Is it OK to say "no" to your dog?

Q. Do you teach your students to teach their dogs the word "No"? - Debi

A. I don't have a problem with people saying "no" to their dogs, but I think it is more helpful to show owners how to teach alternate behaviors to the one they don't want the dog to do.

For example, I teach the dog to sit when greeting -- rather than simply telling the dog "no - don't jump up." I want the dog to know what to do instead.

"No" isn't all that informative. Most dogs need lots more coaching about what they should do in any given situation -- for up to the first two years of life, and less frequently as they grow older, if we've done a good job with them as youngsters.

That said, I don't consider "no" a bad word to use, as long as people aren't screaming it. I don't like seeing people yelling "NO!!" at their dogs. I wouldn't want someone yelling at me, and I'm sure the dog feels the same. It's much more helpful to explain what you do want, rather than what you don't. Even in an emergency, telling the dog "no" doesn't give as much information as "down" to keep the dog from crossing in front of a moving car, or "come" to get the dog to leave a bad situation.

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