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It is very important to teach your dog the command "No"

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How to train a dog to respond to the word "No"

By Nick Whittle Author

Updated on the

It is very important that the primary task of the new dog owner is to teach their dog to stop what they are doing when they are told to do so. Generally, the word ‘no’ is used for such a task (but as we shall see any word will do).

As a dog owner, you want to avoid any unwanted behaviour right? Therefore, it is very important to teach your dog the word "no". Not only will this basic command protect your dog but also yourself. Make sure you have your dog's favourite toy, a bunch of tasty treats, a lot of patience and let's get started.

How do I teach my dog 'no'?

In order to train a dog to respond to ‘no’, first of all, you will need treats. You may like to think that a calm voice, reassurance and repetition will win the day – and such practices will go some way to doing so – but a treat cannot be beaten when it comes to canine learning.

Once your bag of treats is ready, you can move to the second step. Here are four of the major techniques every dog owners should learn.

1. Be coherent

Explain visually what you mean by ‘no’. It is a word that we humans use to bring an end to a certain behaviour or action. In order to relay this complicated notion to your pet you must show them that ‘no’ brings about a change that is not necessarily good. 

For example, hold out a treat well enough to allow your dog to be able to see it in your hand. On your first utterance of ‘no’ close your fist to hide the treat from your dog’s sight. Let the dog sniff your hand but do not give in to her tender ways! As soon as she loses interest in your clenched fist reveal the treat and praise the dog. 

Use a stern voice to utter the word, but do not appear angry. The sternness of your voice will not scare the dog but it will enable the animal to realise that her attention should be directed to you. 

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2. Be patient

You may need to repeat this and other exercises over the course of several days. Some dogs will take even longer to understand the concept of the halting word. Do not lose your patience. If you do, you are likely to scare the dog and make the whole process unpleasant. You will lose more ground!

3. Use the right body language 

When training a dog, adapting the right body language will make a difference. Dogs don't understand human language but they can understand our body gesture and our tone of voice. When you issue the command to stop you should stand tall.

4. Make eye contact 

For your dog to understand the command ‘no’ (or any of its alternatives) is good, but you are not just saying it in order to stop the dog from doing something. You must make sure that in the event of a ‘no’ your dog stops and then looks to you for guidance. If she does not, you may just direct her attention to something even more tempting, or something that so grips her that she no longer responds to the sound of your voice.

In due course – once the basics of ‘no’ are learned – try to teach your dog to look at you by NOT offering praise immediately. It will not expect a silent master or mistress especially since it knows it has obeyed your initial command. When it looks up at you then you may praise your pooch.

Why doesn't my dog understand 'no'?

A dog will understand only the sound and timbre of our voice. The word ‘no’ has no meaning to a dog. We assume that if a dog doesn't respond to ‘no’ it has not understood what was meant, and there are many reasons for its unresponsiveness:

  • Your voice is too soft and not authoritative
  • Your dog’s hearing is poor
  • Your dog believes itself to be the alpha
  • The training provided was not successful
  • Your dog does not understand why it should stop
  • You have uttered the word too many times

Just as we humans do, if we are told of something too many times we shut off not only to its relevance but also to the reasons for our being told about it. And that leaves us (as it would a dog) vulnerable to misunderstanding an error.

If your dog must be constantly reprimanded and told ‘no’ perhaps there are other forces at work.

Should you say no to a dog?

Some trainers feel that saying ‘no’ to a dog is a negative way to train the animal. However, ‘no’ – as we have mentioned – is to a dog simply a sound. We humans may consider the word as an act of denial or restriction, and used in the certain circumstances ‘no’ may even hurt our feelings.

But the same is not to be said of a dog, because a dog does not (and never will) understand the human language. ‘No’ is to a dog as innocuous as the word ‘flower’. In fact if you so choose to you could use the word flower instead, as long as your voice and posture were as forthright as ever.

Dogs may crave our approval, but in order to get it they need to know their limitations. Training a dog to halt when it is told is essential and is in no way an indictment of poor ownership.

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Be patient and confident when training your dog. Nothing is gained from lazy obedience training or training that is boring and unimaginative. Your dog must know its limitations, and when it does it will act in such a way as to avoid your ‘no’ orders. You will end up with a dog that is happy and well behaved.

Failure to act accordingly and to train your dog well will result in a dog that does not know when to stop and that will not care if the command is given a hundred times. Of a dog that is not taught to stop, trouble will ensue since the dog learns that there is no consequence to its actions.

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