"No" use to be overused; both with children and dogs. In both cases we now often hear "oh I never use the word no." Well I use the word NO; sparingly but I surely use it. Being that this is a dog blog I'll only be talking about NO and dogs :) As humans we make mistakes; you know the old saying? "Hey, I'm only human." So No sometimes comes out when you don't want it to; don't kill yourself over it.
But when should you use the word no? How often, under what circumstances and what tone? I like to reserve the use of NO; save it for when you really need impact. But impact is different for every dog. What needs a NO for one probably doesn't even occur for another. So what is the worst thing your dog does?
For my girl Tilley it is chasing shadows; it is not a bad thing in the yard but take her out in public and it is a big no no when off leash. The shadow has her full attention and she could be seriously injured or killed by aimlessly following them. So, many years ago when I decided to get a handle on the shadow chasing NO came in handy.
For Jessie it is her trigger running; anything that moves is fair game so if she catapults off she is immediately stopped in her tracks with a very loud and serious NO. For Luke it is running to see other dogs; he is very social and will tear across a huge field just to say hello. Again not a really safe thing to do. For all of my dogs they rarely hear NO anymore. With consistant training and not letting any of them get away with their naughty behaviors they have learned what I will and will not allow.
No can be used for a serious food stealer; a fence jumper, people jumper, out of car jumper or whatever the worst of the worst is. It is that one behavior that really irks you. But what must accompany the almight NO is YES. You have let your dog know that this bothersome behavior is not desired; so what do they do instead of it?
To have a behavior stopped you must give your dog an alternative; which means there must be something to reward after the NO! For Tilley we redirected her chase drive which is off the charts to balls, frisbee's and anything else that is tossed. Her retrieve brought her reward, the next toss. Luke loves to be told he is a good boy; afterall he is a guy. He get's all googly when I tell him what a good boy he is for walking beside me when he wants to charge across a field.
And for Jessie she is simply rewarded for not going after it is that she wanted to go after. By not reacting to her trigger she get's food; and there is nothing better in Jessie's life than food. So for Jessie it is the lack of reacting that brings her a much better reward than the actual chase. Sometimes simple control is what you seek but if it is as simple as that; you must reward the control.
Dogs are much like children; repeat NO, NO, NO, NO, enough times and they don't hear it anymore. So pick your battles; you can't win them all.