“No” is one of my least favorite words when it comes to dogs. I am constantly frustrated by people that yell at their dogs about everything they are not supposed to do instead of teaching the dog what it is they actually want from the dog.
Remember Diesel? I almost had a fit the last time I was at his house and his owner told him “No! Stop!” in reference to a behavior he had just started… begging. I intervened, by standing all the way across the yard and saying, “Diesel, Come.” He left the plate of food he so desired and came to me. Once he was there, I put him on a down stay and went to talk to his owners.
What did “No!” or “Stop!” mean? Did he mean stop standing? Did he mean stop sniffing? Did he mean stop wagging his tail? It could have meant anything. What his owner meant to say was “move away from the plate” or “mind your own business.”
Lucky for them, Diesel’s training was far enough along that his vocabulary included commands that would get them what they really wanted. I used the come command. They could have used the place command (a go-to-your-spot command). They could have let him stay by the food and left him on a down/stay.
Karen the Good Dog Owner wrote a post that addressed this very topic not to long ago. One of the examples she uses is teacher her dog Rocky to not chase a chicken by telling him what to do instead (come).
This is a concept I struggled with when Rugby was a puppy. How do I teach him to NOT bark? I would either have to teach him what barking was in order to put a stop to it or I would give him something better to do. I went with the second option. It wasn’t until Rugby had a retrieve, and he was asked to perform a variety of Obedience tasks while his mouth was occupied (with the retrieve) that the barking was no longer a problem. I was able to give him a more appropriate behavior to replace the barking. Now when we are walking down the street, he is not barking at the dog off in the distance. Now, he is looking up at me asking what it is he should do next.
You don’t want your dog to stop pulling on a leash, you want them to HEEL.
You don’t want your dog to stop jumping on you when you get home, you want them to SIT.
You don’t want your dog to stop bolting out of the front door, you want them to STAY.
If our neighbors would realize that they don’t want their Chihuahuas to stop running away, that they actually want them to COME when they are called, then my mornings might be a little less noisy.
Dog training is not just for problem dogs and show dogs. Its to make your pet a better companion.
P.S – That is a picture of Rugby at 6 months old enjoying his freshly destroyed toilet paper! Something else I wanted him to NOT do.