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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I've been informed that rather than disagree (a.k.a., "bickering") in a thread I should start my own thread, so I am doing that with a claim in a separate post that the word "no" has no place in dog training.

First of all, stop using the word no. It tends to become associated with negative rather than a positive response to something.
Well, that's the idea, isn't it? It's sort of tautological to say not to use the word "no" because it's negative, when... well... that's what it is. And why shouldn't a puppy know that its human views poor behavior in a negative light? Why should we deprive him or her of that important bit of information? What positive thing should one say when one catches one's dear puppy tearing up the house or vacuuming the kitchen counter?

Just as many trainers use "yes" in place of the clicker marker to reward good behavior, "no" can be used to mark the opposite. Even trainers that avoid using "no" still employ "ah-ha", "ack", "tss", "shh" (my favorite) or equivalent to get the same point across. It has its place.

With regards to whether a dog understands "no" in the way a child does, it turns out dogs have come to understand the meaning of words, especially when connected to tone of voice. See this article for reference of a recent study that shows dogs appreciate meaning much as humans do:

Their Masters' Voices: Dogs Understand Tone And Meaning Of Words

Presumably this would include the word "no" or whichever equivalent negative marker we use?

Here's where I would agree with @jagger: the word "no" gets overused in dog training. We do not constantly scold our human babies with "no," yet we throw it out like candy when it comes to our canine companions. When we do that, it loses its impact. It no longer coveys the full extent of our disapproval. (I heard of a dog who came running when its owner said "no, no!" -- it thought that was his name!) Perhaps the lack of effectiveness many trainers report for the word "no" stems from overuse rather than a dog's ability to understand and respond to its meaning.

It probably also results from poor timing. Using "no" when significant time has passed after the undesired behavior is meaningless. The dog has no clue what you're talking about (and neither would most children), even if you (don't do this!) stick his nose in it. You need to mark (just as is the case with "yes" or "good boy" or Click!) at the moment the behavior happens. That is the teachable moment.

Finally, yes, we need to pivot toward positive behavior and reinforcement, and do so at the earliest possible point. Having marked and/or discouraged undesirable behavior, we need to encourage and foster an alternative replacement behavior, and, wherever possible, one that disables/disallows the bad behavior (can't jump on the table if you're sitting on the ground). In some cases this is tough (what replaces/disallows digging up the garden?), and you need to find a way to either channel the energy into another activity (play with you, chewing on a super yummy toy, etc.).

The use of the word "no," then, has its place, but not a prominent place, and not one where we should allow ourselves to dwell for long.
 

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I agree that "no" is useful as a non-reward marker.

I also think it is probably overused, and used most often in an emotionally-charged way, which isn't helpful. I'm glad Finn's not a sensitive dog and stuff like that just rolls off him, because sometimes "no" just comes out, especially when I'm frustrated.

Funny anecdote, though. I didn't think "no" had any meaning for Finn, as it never affected his behaviour. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I noticed he was about to poop just outside his dedicated potty area (I don't think he realized he wasn't fully where he was supposed to be). I knew he had been having a bit of an upset tummy and I didn't want to startle or correct him, so I ended up just sort of whispering a silly "noooo" under my breath, to myself, but he heard me and stopped. He gave me sort of an "oops, sorry" look and then did another circle and hunkered back down in the right place. I found it so interesting, as I hadn't even been speaking to him and there certainly wasn't any negativity or disapproval in my tone of voice whatsoever. So I think he really does understand exactly what the word "no" means, and just doesn't care most of the time :p.
 

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Training session over, 'no, no more, all gone, nope, not on your life, not gonna happen, all done, finished, gone'
& he's still bouncing up and down looking for more.

I don't use 'no' as a negative marker (probably because I use it as above), and there are enough facial and body language cues going on that I couldn't control if I tried, that serve as such and more. I have the opposite of a poker face--dog can read me like a book. I can't train when I'm the least bit grumpy.
 

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IMO, it's overused. Too many people tell their dogs no for everything, like you said, and they don't really know what is being asked of them.

Instead of no as a non-reward marker, I prefer to say "try again" (as it is much easier to automatically say in a happy tone) or better yet, just figure out what's going wrong and try to fix the situation so the dog can succeed.

I think it's fairly rare for a dog to disobey purely because they find it fun to do so...whether we can see it or not, most of the time there is some "obstacle" they are trying to overcome - either they are stressed, or confused, or afraid, whatever. I think it's far kinder to help them succeed at every turn than it is to constantly throw the word "No" at them.
 

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I am sorry, but can't resist. ;-)
Is leaving a nice juicy steak on the counter 'an obstacle to overcome'?
My cats would say, nope, and help themselves, never giving the dog a chance.

Which brings up another way to deal with dog behaviour--don't leave steak (or other really tempting things) within reach.

Or have cats, and you'll already know that--cats are good teachers.
 

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I don't care for the word "no". It gives very little information, compared to the affirmative. Think of the old "p or not p" fundamentals of logic. There is only 1 p; there are usually infinite 'not p' variables.

Take potty training.

p = pee on this.
not p = don't pee on this.

Would it be more effective to potty train a dog by teaching p, or by teaching not p?

By most people's standards, p = pee on grass.
By most people's standards, not p = don't pee on carpet. Don't pee on linoleum. Don't pee on tile. Don't pee on laminate. Don't pee at the vet's office. Don't pee in the car. Don't pee on the couch. Don't pee on the bed. Don't pee on my shoes...

Remember, dogs have to practice a behavior correctly maybe 10-15 times before it becomes habit. What would you rather spend your time teaching? p, or not p?
 

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I am sorry, but can't resist. ;-)
Is leaving a nice juicy steak on the counter 'an obstacle to overcome'?
I would say so, yes. It's one of the many distractions out there.

It's like me in my college calculus class. I wasn't willfully choosing not to listen/participate, I really wanted to and I really wanted to learn, but...the person in front of me is online shopping on their laptop, the one two seats down has a very delicious looking cookie, there are people playing Frisbee outside, and calculus on its own is already kind of dry, stressful, and just hard.

Lots of obstacles I had to overcome, and I didn't always do the best job at it, either. :p But if some of those weren't there, or better yet, if the material had been broken down into more manageable chunks and NOT taught by a man with an accent I couldn't at all understand, calculus as a whole probably would have been a lot easier.

...But having someone say "No!" every time I failed (or marking off points on the exam when I swore I knew what I was doing with no explanation whatsoever) sure didn't help me learn the material at all...in fact, it was rather discouraging.
 

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IMO, it's overused. Too many people tell their dogs no for everything, like you said, and they don't really know what is being asked of them.

Instead of no as a non-reward marker, I prefer to say "try again" (as it is much easier to automatically say in a happy tone) or better yet, just figure out what's going wrong and try to fix the situation so the dog can succeed.

I think it's fairly rare for a dog to disobey purely because they find it fun to do so...whether we can see it or not, most of the time there is some "obstacle" they are trying to overcome - either they are stressed, or confused, or afraid, whatever. I think it's far kinder to help them succeed at every turn than it is to constantly throw the word "No" at them.
This is a really fair point, too. I try to use "no" or "nope" in a light voice when he does something other than what I asked of him, but using a different term, that's not so easy to just say without thinking, is surely a better idea.
 

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Words are used too often, actions are far better. I want the dog to be confused, and a confused dog is a thinking dog - when they figure out what I want, they get it pretty quick. I don't use words like "no" or "come". At most, it's his name or a whistle - dogs will learn the sound of your voice.

The pin tried periodically to push the boundaries. Like resource guarding the ex, she's on the couch, he's beside her and giving a low growl? I don't think so little mister. Most people will give a command or try to remove the dog - however when my arse is heading toward him - it's move or be sat on. He knows this, my butt has never touched him - no words spoken. Usually ends up with him on the floor with head tilted to the side with a confused look on his face. I'll pat my leg, as a sign for him to come up. Lesson learned.

When we're at the park, he follows me, he tends to watch where I am. If he's off on his own and not paying attention, I change directions and whistle. He comes running, that's how I practice recall. Not a word is spoken. If I head down a trail full of trees, I'll whistle again to let him know where i am.

Food aggression? First and last time he ever growled over the food dish - no words spoken - just pick up the dish and let him go hungry for a few hours - I was disappointed and he was confused. Off to the dog park to really work up an appetite. He was starving by the time 8 PM rolled around. I lay on the floor, put the bowl against me - he wants to eat, it's my way. Still no words spoken - he was so confused, danced around, shaking his head. Wish I had it on video - it's up to him to figure it out, he's now thinking trying to figure out the plan. He simply submitted, ate and gave me a lick on the face. He has never growled over the food dish since.
 

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I personally think a good "No" is vital for teaching what is wrong at a present moment, whether in training or if the dog is doing something unacceptable.

It comes natural to me to use verbal words in training versus noises.
It teaches the dog my personal way that my voice sounds like to the dog and not sounding like a noise that could be a noise naturally found outside. (city buses or semi trucks make a SHHH or CHHHH noise due to releasing air pressure, also if someone sneezes can sound like that).

I think using noises can sometimes confuse a dog if somebody/something makes that same sounding noise naturally when on a walk outside.

That's my personal input on this subject matter.
 

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I would say so, yes. It's one of the many distractions out there.

It's like me in my college calculus class. I wasn't willfully choosing not to listen/participate, I really wanted to and I really wanted to learn, but...the person in front of me is online shopping on their laptop, the one two seats down has a very delicious looking cookie, there are people playing Frisbee outside, and calculus on its own is already kind of dry, stressful, and just hard.

Lots of obstacles I had to overcome, and I didn't always do the best job at it, either. :p But if some of those weren't there, or better yet, if the material had been broken down into more manageable chunks and NOT taught by a man with an accent I couldn't at all understand, calculus as a whole probably would have been a lot easier.

...But having someone say "No!" every time I failed (or marking off points on the exam when I swore I knew what I was doing with no explanation whatsoever) sure didn't help me learn the material at all...in fact, it was rather discouraging.
Sorry, I was trying to be a little silly, while recommending management instead of a "no". I think I failed comunicating that--
I was lousy at calculus--so I went to art college. I still Love the concept of infinite numbers, though.
 

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Sorry, I was trying to be a little silly, while recommending management instead of a "no". I think I failed comunicating that--
I was lousy at calculus--so I went to art college. I still Love the concept of infinite numbers, though.
I got it :) I just chose to answer...in no small part because it gave me the opportunity to rant about calculus :p

I think it was mostly frustrating for me because I like solving math problems but my professor was awful and his graders even worse. It wasn't even fun, just torture.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I agree that "no" is useful as a non-reward marker.

I also think it is probably overused, and used most often in an emotionally-charged way, which isn't helpful.
Yes, this too! Excellent point. This is why I prefer "shh"... it serves to calm me, too. :thumbsup:
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Training session over, 'no, no more, all gone, nope, not on your life, not gonna happen, all done, finished, gone'
& he's still bouncing up and down looking for more.
This, of course, assumes that you're in the middle of a bonafides training session when the "no" marker (or equivalent) is required. There's life, too, you know. You can't exactly say, "OK, humans. Dinner is over, all gone, nope, not on your life..." when Fido jumps on the dinner table in the middle of a non-training situation.

But yeah, I hear you on the grumpy part. Let's have none of that. ;)
 

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Of course "no" has a place.

Lots of people just think of "no" as a mild form of positive punishment in the context of bad behavior.

But really it's just a way to communicate information to the dog. Dogs are driven by a variety of different motivators but a strong one is a desire to please and a desire to work.

Sometimes that comes into conflict with other motivators such as the desire to eat which can be seen when an untrained dog steals food off of the table despite knowing he's not supposed to.

However in many cases the other motivators aren't that compelling and the fact the dogs owner doesn't want them to do that is reason enough. Such as, "don't walk on the new grass, walk on the established lawn (or sidewalk)". In this example walking on a patch of grass 1 foot away from the other probably doesn't make a difference to the dog, and given that indifference will gladly walk where you'd prefer but without telling them "no" how could he know?

Every time a dog comes into a new situation (constantly since nothing is ever 100% the same) the dog has to decide how to act. Even a well trained dog has to adapt to the new situation. With "yes" and "no" you can help them with that adaptation.
 

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I do use no and find it helpful. However, I don't yell it all the time, and I taught the dogs what it meant. That whatever they are doing at the moment is not what I want. I only use it when it is something they clearly know is not something they should be doing. Such as sniffing around the litterbox. After I say no, I show them what I do want.
 

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Regardless of the exact word, body posture, facial expression, gesture etc., both a positive and negative marker are beneficial in shaping a dog's behavior. Doesn't mean a negative marker needs to be anything more than a simple indication of the undesired behavior exhibited. I guess it depends on the particular dog to a degree but most dogs are smart enough to decipher the difference. However, the simple word "no" needs to have an ensuing action if it is to mean anything just as one's positive marker does.
 

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I guess that's where I'm different. Thinking back, I don't recall too much conversation with the dogs I've had in my life.

The day the minpin bit me, I deserved it, he was on a raw bone on the deck and I was tormenting him. He likes to hear himself growl, seems to enjoy a bit of torment but I guess this wasn't the night for it. He lay teeth, and created a line of cuts between my knuckles. After it happened, I sat back and didn't say anything, didn't scold the dog, didn't need to - it really took me off guard.

It was interesting to watch him for the seconds after the bite - both the GF and I were calm - I could see the shift in his brain, the few seconds that it took for the brain to snap back to reality. He went from redline (eyes fluttered for a moment) - to realization - to whimpering. Now the worst possible thing I could have done that night was kept him off my lap - Dr. Dog kicked in hard and he wanted to nurse the hand. He licked the hand for 5 minutes til it stopped bleeding - then put paws on my chest and licked me on the face. Licking my face is something that's very reserved from him. Every hour or so he would check the hand, even woke me up through the night licking the wound.

I often wonder what would have happened had there been communication that night, had I screamed at him and scolded him - I imagine some people would get physical with the dog after a bite.

What would that reaction do to a dog in the moment. I gave him the chance to sort it out in his own mind, and he did. I didn't need to say anything to him.
 
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