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Teaching the Command "No"

The following tip was written by PAW adopter Candy Hamner:

One of the most important commands to teach your dog is the command "no." Not only is this good for family living, it can help you to save your dog's life in a threatening situation. The command is also helpful if you want to re-direct your dog's behavior from a negative behavior, such as chewing on your chair leg, to a positive behavior, such as chewing on his toy.

How do you teach the command "no"? The easiest way is to "set your dog up" for correction. Start indoors, using a collar and a leash, focusing on one activity you would like him to stop.

Let's say you have a problem with your dog taking food off the kitchen table. Have him on lead and walk him by the table. Place small pieces of food on the table. When he takes the food off the table say "no," give him a slight leash correction, move him away from the table, and give him something he can have (such as a toy or safe chew bone) and praise him. Repeat the exercise a few times allowing him to take the food.

Next step: take him to the table and say "no" before he reaches for the food, giving him a slight leash correction and lead him away from the table. Praise him lavishly for not going ahead and taking the food. Give him something he can have. Repeat this a few times until he stops when you say "no" without using the leash correction.

If you have trouble with your dog chewing your furniture, try teaching "no" to re-direct him to something more appropriate to chew. Make sure you have several desirable chew bones or toys to offer the dog. You may need to experiment to find the kinds of toys she really enjoys. When your dog reaches out to chew on your chair leg, go to the dog, place your fingers lightly under the collar and move the dog away from the chair leg saying "no" as you move the dog away. You might want to add "this is mommy's" then when you give her a toy and say "this is your toy. Good dog" and happily praise her when she takes her toy and chews on it.

Next, try the command in other situations. Always have the dog on lead and always lavishly praise him for doing what you ask. For example, while you are walking outside and he pulls on the lead to run after a squirrel, say "no," pull him towards you and praise him. Practice this exercise while keeping the dog on lead until you can say "no" without pulling on the leash and the dog stops the behavior. Eventually, you can begin to use the command off lead when in a safe, fully confined environment. Always praise the dog lavishly for every success, and if you use food treats, offer them to the dog as a reward.

This command is a wonderful command that helps in the safety of your pet, your home and visitors.

Note: Many dogs have heard the word "no" so often in the past that it has no clear meaning for them. In such cases, another command-word could be substituted for "no," such as "ack!"


For more Dog Tips about pet care, adoption and the work PAW does, visit our website at:

Partnership for Animal Welfare, Inc.
P.O. Box 1074, Greenbelt, MD 20768

Last Updated: April 26, 2018 (LET) PawSupport