Why Telling Your Dog “No” Isn’t The Answer

Why Telling Your Dog “No” Isn’t The Answer


How many times do you tell your dog “No!” every day?

“No” to counter surfing. “No” to darting after squirrels. “No” to snacking from the trash can like it’s Golden Corral. “No” to licking and grooming the cat too hard. The point is most pet parents probably use the word “No” way too often and definitely with the wrong intention.

When most pet parents use the word “No,” they don’t really mean: “No! Don’t do that.” Rather, what they often mean is: “No! Don’t do that and do this instead.” How is a dog supposed to know what the “…do this instead” is if you don’t tell him, and if all you say is, “No!”?

Your dog cannot read your mind and it’s because of this conflicting or incomplete communication that I’m talking about why telling your dog “no” isn’t the answer.

The Correct Way To Use “No”

The correct and most effective way to use “No” or “Na” or “Un Uh” or “Stop It” or any other variation is to think of this word or sound as a way to tell him to stop doing something you don’t want him doing – and that’s it. It doesn’t tell your dog what you want him to do. And it definitely doesn’t teach your dog a more appropriate behavior.

After saying “No” and stopping the undesired behavior, you simply need to give your dog more information.

Since “No” only stops a behavior and doesn’t teach your dog a more appropriate behavior or how to make better life decisions, you need to follow up “No” with additional information or instruction. This is called redirection and it’s important to understand and master this since you’ll be redirecting your dog throughout his life.

Why Telling Your Dog “No” Isn’t The Answer

POP QUIZ!: You come home to find your dog sleeping on the dining room table. When you open the door, he wakes up and is excited to see you. How do you handle this?

  1. You start laughing hysterically because you find it so ridiculous and funny. You also grab your phone and share a photo on Instagram.
  2. You start yelling at your dog, telling him to get off the table, and give him a side eye for the next hour.
  3. You calmly tell your dog “No” or “Get Down” and redirect him to his bed.

Which of these is the most effective response? Number 3, of course,  but why?

The Power of Redirection

Number 3, in the example above is the most effective response because:

  • You immediately and calmly stopped the behavior by saying “No” or “Get Down.”
  • You immediately follow that up with redirection – telling your dog where to go or what to do instead.
  • By redirecting him to his bed, you are teaching him his bed is the appropriate place to sleep, not on top of the dining room table.

I’d love to hear from you!
So leave a comment below and join the conversation!

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