Saying No to Your Dog is an Empty Bucket

Dog with dirt

An Empty Bucket

Saying No to your dog is a waste of time. It slows down the result you’re looking for. It could even derail your purpose entirely. Not to mention unintended consequences.

Keep reading and I promise to explain. And when I’m done, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll even agree with me!

Imagine for a moment that you have been transported to an unfamiliar place.  You don’t understand the language, the customs, or the culture.  The people seem nice but you don’t know how to communicate with them.

You try to make friends, but then something strange happens. The people who seemed nice are suddenly angry.  You try to show them that you want to be friends and it does no good. They’re very angry and you’re afraid because you don’t understand what they expect you to do.

All you want to do now is to find a safe place.

I hope you never encounter a situation like that one. Nobody deserves to be bullied so unjustly!  When communication breaks down, nobody benefits.

Now let’s imagine a different outcome.  The nice people show you what to do and help you understand their language, customs, and culture. If you make a mistake, they’re not angry and they even help you learn to do better. They are proud of your progress and they motivate you to be successful. With healthy communication, everybody benefits.

The question is which outcome will you choose for your dog?  Will you choose to set your dog up for success with instruction that he can understand? 

You would not be reading this if you thought that the first outcome was acceptable for your dog.  But unfortunately, that’s exactly what happens when we jump into punishing dogs for failing to know things we have never taught them.  

Saying “No” has become a kind of automatic response to dogs when you want them to stop whatever they’re doing.  Dogs are clever enough to add up the evidence and reach a conclusion. They learn how to avoid your angry  “No” by not doing certain things in your presence. 

The problem with trying to train a dog with “No” is that it’s an empty bucket of negative information. 

“No” isn’t instructive. It doesn’t give the dog information about what to DO.  Training is teaching a dog what to DO.  Spending your time and energy trying to stop a dog from DOING is a bad investment.  

Positive Redirection

A better return on your investment comes from delivering instruction so that your dog can learn what you want him to do.  Positive redirection is simply cueing your dog to do something different, something incompatible with the behavior that’s not acceptable.

dog paying attention

The more your dog learns from you about how to survive in human society, the more possibilities become available when you want to redirect him to a more acceptable choice.

Here are a few practical examples:

  • Train your dog to come when you call so that he won’t run away.
  • If you train your dog to sit or lie down then he won’t jump on guests.
  • When your dog discovers the value of giving you attention, he won’t pull on the leash.

All are great uses of positive redirection.  If you want your dog to do a good job, then you have to give him a good job to DO.

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