The Most Important Dog Training Tool – Thinking

There are a lot of variables when it comes to training dogs. How quick a dog catches on. How much desire they have to please. What motivates them. What they dislike. The list goes on.

The point being, dogs differ. You will come across all different kinds of problems and you have to think your way through those problems.

The other part of thinking is taking all of the information you hear out there about how to train a dog and think, does this make sense? What are the pros and cons to this method, tool or ideology?

Training a dog is all about communicating effectively to your dog what you want them to do and also what they should not do for various reasons including their own safety.

One of the more recent things to enter dog training ideology is to not say “no” to your dog. That one has me baffled as to how anyone could think that is a good idea. That takes away about 50% of your ability to communicate. There are really 2 key things when you are training a dog:

  1. Positive – Tell them what you like them doing. Praise and reward that.
  2. Negative – Tell them what you don’t want them doing and add a consequence, only if needed.

I can give you a number of examples off the top of my head with just our own dog where it is necessary to tell him no. Don’t do that. He is a working line German Shepherd with very high prey drive. Here are the things I have told him not to do:

  1. Don’t eat the chickens – Our chickens get to roam the yard and have a great life. They have to coexist with the dog. He thought they were very fun to chase. I told him no. He said ok, I won’t. Now they live peacefully together.
  2. Don’t chase the horses – We have 2 horses and they are not fond of being chased. They do silly things like run through fences and cause severe cuts or worse injuries. I told him no. He said ok, I won’t. Now they live peacefully together.
  3. Don’t chase the barn cats – We have a number of barn cats to keep the mouse population down. They have to be free to roam and do their job. He thought they were fun to chase. I told him no. He said ok, I won’t. Now they live peacefully together.
  4. Don’t chase the neighbours cows – If you want to end your life quickly as a farm dog, go and chase the neighbours livestock. I told him no. He said ok, I won’t. Now the cows come over and hang their head over the fence on our property to say hi every now and then.
  5. Don’t go crazy and try to destroy a clients dog – Clients come here with dogs that are reactive or aggressive and do so towards our chickens, horses and cats. Our dog thought that wasn’t right and really looked like he was going to take a round out of those dogs. I told him no. He said ok, I won’t. He is allowed to protect our yard when we are not working with client dogs in case a coyote or stray dog comes into our yard.

I have worked with a number of clients whose dogs were aggressive or reactive to a various number of things. When you communicate not to do that some will stop immediately and not do it again. They had no idea we didn’t want them to do that. Once you let them know they are happy to comply. Lots will still persist and we have further methods to help better explain to them not to do that and then that solves the problem.

The clients I work with are often very good at thinking through problems on their own. Many of them have worked with previous trainers for certain problem behaviours and have often been told to do strange things like not say no. Then they will seek out other answers and this is where I end up working with many people in this same situation. We teach them how to effectively communicate with their dog which can include telling the dog not to do certain things.

So if you have someone tell you don’t say no to your dog you can determine if this is a good idea for your situation. Think about when you should say no and when you shouldn’t or when you might need to break things down for your dog. So far my brain has found “no” to be an invaluable tool that can greatly increase a dog’s freedom, happiness, and lifespan.