It’s a joke among us dog lovers. “My dog thinks his name is No.” We might as well just admit it; we spend a whole lot of time and energy telling our dogs “no.” We say “no” to this and “no” to that. After a while “no” means so many things that it ends up meaning nothing at all to our dogs. It just communicates that mom or dad is in a crummy mood, and that’s no fun.
I prefer to replace unwanted behaviors with good behaviors. “Sit” is an easy one because most of us have already started teaching it. How about every time your dog sits on cue you say “Yes” and give him a piece of his kibble (or a yummy healthful treat)? This is cool, too. Every time your dog comes to you when you call him, say “Yes!” and throw his ball for a good game of fetch. Here’s another good one. Whenever your dog looks at you when you say “watch me,” say “Yes!” and treat him. Do the “watch me” game while walking and see how nicely he walks beside you!
You won’t be using food training your dog forever, or very long at all for that matter. Still, “Yes” training really turns your relationship with your dog in a whole new direction. Instead of yelling “no” all the time, now you can give your dog very meaningful directions. When he jumps up to greet someone, don’t say “no,” say “sit.” Problem resolved. Is your dog harassing the cat? Forget “no,” say “Come” instead. Now he’s with you, not the cat. If your dog is pulling on the leash, stop for “watch me,” then put the game in motion again. Now we’re moving in the right direction.
(originally published in Houston Dog Blog)