How to Train Your Dog to Understand 'No'

How to Train Your Dog to Understand 'No'
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon3-6 Weeks
General training category iconGeneral

Introduction

Of all the words your dog needs to learn, none is as important to his safety and your sanity than simply, "No!" When you bring a puppy into the house, it is imperative that you teach him the rules of the house, including what he can and cannot do. After all, he is just like a kid, he has no idea what the rules are until you teach them to him. This should be one of the first commands you teach your dog.

It is also one of those commands the average dog tends to learn as he goes along. Think of it this way, if you tell your dog "No" often enough, he will figure it out on his own over the course of time. But, if you are like most dog owners, you need him to learn this particular command sooner rather than later. 

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Defining Tasks

There are many reasons why you need to teach your dog to obey the 'no' command. The most important of these is for his own safety. For example, if your dog suddenly gets it into his head to run towards traffic, telling him 'no' should bring him to a dead stop. Or, maybe your dog is headed to the litter box for a snack--being able to respond to the 'no' command can put an end to his naughty nibbling.

However, you should not have to yell at your pup to get him to follow this command. You need to work with him until he will happily respond to this command in much the same way as he does any other command. While this is a basic command, it is also one that will take a while for your pup to master and one you will use with him all the rest of his life. 

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Getting Started

You can teach any dog to respond to the 'no' command, regardless of age as long, as you are willing to put in the necessary work. Younger dogs tend to learn faster and some older dogs "forget" how it works. Since this is one of the first commands you will be teaching your pup, there aren't any real prerequisites. But you will need a leash and a large supply of your pup's favorite treats. The rest is all up to how much time and effort you are willing to put into his training. 

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The Hungry Dog Method

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1

Start with a hungry dog

Since this method uses plenty of treats, you need your pup to be hungry when you start, or he may not want the treats.

2

Hold the treat

Hold the treat out in front of you, flat on your hand, approximately 6 inches from his nose where he can see it and, more importantly, smell it.

3

When he goes for it

Your dog is naturally going to wait a few seconds and then try to grab the treat. When he does, say "No!" in a firm voice and close your hand up into a fist. If he keeps sniffing your fist for too long, pull it back and reset back to the beginning. Keep working with him until he no longer tries to get the treat.

4

Teach 'okay'

Now that you have your pup responding to the "no" command, it's time to teach him when it's okay for him to take the treat.

5

Working with the command

With your pup sitting in front of you and the treat folded up in your hand, slowly open your hand. As you do so, say "Okay." If he lunges for the food, quickly make a fist so he can't get to the food and try again.

6

Repeat both sides

Work your pup through both commands for as long as it takes for your pup to fully understand that "No" means no and "Okay" means yes or go ahead. Once he has learned to apply this command to the treat, he will learn that when you tell him "no" about anything else, he is not to keep doing whatever it was he was doing.

The Starts with Treats Method

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1

Grab treats

If you don't already have a ready supply of your pup's favorite treats, run out and pick some up, you are going to need them. You will also need some form of rattle like a soda can filled with pebbles.

2

On the floor

Choose a room to train in that has plenty of open floor space and place one of the treats in the center of the floor.

3

When he goes for it

When your pup makes a move towards the treat, use the rattle to make a sudden loud noise and remove the treat at the same time saying, "No!"

4

Association time

Over time your pup is going to associate the noise that startles him with being told 'no'. This is called negative action reinforcement. In other words, he associates the rattle with doing something he shouldn't be and with being told 'no'.

5

Keep it up

Keep practicing this until your pup will stop with just the command so that you no longer need the rattle, safe in the knowledge your pup understands the meaning of the word "No" and what is expected of him.

The Hand and Treat Method

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1

Start with treats

For this method, you need to put some of your pup's favorite treats in your pocket.

2

Call your dog

Call your dog over and let him see the treat in your hand. As you close your hand, say "No!". Let him lick and sniff, but do not give him the treat. When he finally gives up and backs away, praise him and give him the treat.

3

Repeat

Repeat the above step several times until your pup figures out he gets the treat only when he obeys the 'no' command. Be sure to use the right body language; an upright stance with an authoritative voice will get the best results.

4

Pay attention to me

Along with training your pup to stop what he is doing when you tell him "No", you also want him to immediately turn to you seeking further instruction. To do this, the next time you work on 'no' training when your pup turns away, don't move or say anything. When your pup turns and looks up at you to see what's going on, then give him the treat.

5

More repetition

The only thing left is to keep repeating the training until every time you tell your pup "No", he turns and looks at you. Once you have him doing this, mission accomplished.

By PB Getz

Published: 01/19/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Ted

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Labrador Retriever

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3 Months

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Having trouble getting my 12 week old labrador to stop biting hands arms and ankles ?

Jan. 25, 2022

Ted's Owner

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Alisha Smith - Alisha S., Dog Trainer

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257 Dog owners recommended

Hello! Here is information on puppy nipping/biting. Nipping: Puppies may nip for a number of reasons. Nipping can be a means of energy release, getting attention, interacting and exploring their environment or it could be a habit that helps with teething. Whatever the cause, nipping can still be painful for the receiver, and it’s an action that pet parents want to curb. Some ways to stop biting before it becomes a real problem include: Using teething toys. Distracting with and redirecting your dog’s biting to safe and durable chew toys is one way to keep them from focusing their mouthy energies to an approved location and teach them what biting habits are acceptable. Making sure your dog is getting the proper amount of exercise. Exercise is huge. Different dogs have different exercise needs based on their breed and size, so check with your veterinarian to make sure that yours is getting the exercise they need. Dogs—and especially puppies—use their playtime to get out extra energy. With too much pent-up energy, your pup may resort to play biting. Having them expel their energy in positive ways - including both physical and mental exercise - will help mitigate extra nips. Being consistent. Training your dog takes patience, practice and consistency. With the right training techniques and commitment, your dog will learn what is preferred behavior. While sometimes it may be easier to let a little nipping activity go, be sure to remain consistent in your cues and redirection. That way, boundaries are clear to your dog. Using positive reinforcement. To establish preferred behaviors, use positive reinforcement when your dog exhibits the correct behavior. For instance, praise and treat your puppy when they listen to your cue to stop unwanted biting as well as when they choose an appropriate teething toy on their own. Saying “Ouch!” The next time your puppy becomes too exuberant and nips you, say “OUCH!” in a very shocked tone and immediately stop playing with them. Your puppy should learn - just as they did with their littermates - that their form of play has become unwanted. When they stop, ensure that you follow up with positive reinforcement by offering praise, treat and/or resuming play. Letting every interaction with your puppy be a learning opportunity. While there are moments of dedicated training time, every interaction with your dog can be used as a potential teaching moment.

Jan. 25, 2022

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Sue

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German Shepherd

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1 Year

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I got him about 2 months ago, so I've had a hard time letting him know that I'm not going to harm him.

Jan. 15, 2022

Sue's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Karla, Are there any signs of aggression present? If so, I recommend hiring a professional trainer who has experience with fear and aggression to work with you in person to help pup. If pup is shy around you but not at all aggressive, sit down - so that pup is calmer, and toss pup him dinner kibble one piece at a time without making eye contact. Do this as often as you can. Keep enough distance between you for pup to relax enough to eat the food. As he gets more comfortable, decrease the distance by tossing the treats slightly less far, so that pup has to come closer to you to eat them. Watch pup's body language to determine when pup is relaxed enough to decrease the distance - don't rush this process but do practice often at the current distance. You don't just want pup to get as close as possible, you want to watch her body language to help him actually relax before decreasing distance, so he is feeling better about you. When pup will come within a foot of your chair to eat the food and is relaxed at that distance, start to practice this in other positions like standing up, sitting on the ground or lying down. When you change positions, you will likely need to go back to tossing the treats further away again because the new position will probably make him nervous if he is very nervous. Once pup will go up to your chair when you are sitting or in one of the other positions and is even more comfortable with you both in general, put on a harness or martingale type collar that pup cannot get out of on pup. If pup isn't already comfortable with a collar, harness, or leash, spend time slowly introducing the harness or collar using the method from the video linked below once pup is comfortable enough to get closer to you. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tn5b8u1YS_g&feature=emb_title When pup is comfortable with everyone in your home from a distance, then also move onto teaching him to enjoy physical touch and handling too. Use pup's daily meal kibble to do this. Gently touch an area of pup's body while feeding a piece of food. Touch an ear and give a treat. Touch a paw and give a treat. Hold his collar and give a treat. Touch his tail gently and give a treat. Touch his belly, his other paws, his chest, shoulder, muzzle and every other area very gently and give a treat each time. Keep these times calm and fun for pup. Next, practice lure reward training with pup. That training tends to be best when first getting started with fearful dogs. To teach No gently, place a treat in your closed hand and hold it where pup can sniff it. Say "No " calmly, and let pup sniff, paw at, any try to get the treat. Keep your hand closed and wait pup out. As soon as pup backs away from the treat and stops trying to get it out, praise pup, and give a different treat from behind your back. Practice this often at random times. When pup is good at leaving the one in your hand alone, practice dropping it and stepping on it, standing in front of it, and hiding other interesting things in your hand for pup to learn to leave alone too. When pup is more comfortable with you, then I would work on desensitizing to outside. Choose a secure, front-clip type harness or martingale type collar. Ideally, practice this in a fenced in area since pup may be a flight risk. Clip his leash on the harness and at first just find a calm spot to sit and hang out, bring a book if you want, and just stay there for at least thirty minutes to let pup take in that area without the constant change of a walk. When pup is okay with that area after lots of practice, start adding in new locations around your neighborhood to do this in. Pup may be too nervous to take food at first, but if he isn't, you can practice tricks and commands with treats, let him find them in the grass (be sure it hasn't been treated with pesticides or a driveway doesn't have oil or anti-frost type spills), or bring a couple favorite toys stuffed with yummy treats to help him relax. When pup is okay with multiple locations in your area, then start walks. Keep walks short and calm at first, giving treats whenever pup is relaxed, focusing on you, curious and brave about new things, or trying to decide whether to be afraid or okay with something - to help pup decide to be brave instead. Don't reward unwanted responses though, try to distract and keep your attitude calm, confident and upbeat - never worried or soothing, but act the way you want pup to feel - happy and confident. Check out the article linked below as well. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-socialize-a-shy-dog/ If you aren't seeing improvement, I highly suggest working with a trainer because additional training may be needed, and you may someone who can monitor how pup is doing and tailor the training plan based on that. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Jan. 17, 2022


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