How To Teach Your Dog The “No” Command… - Brandon McMillan's Canine Minded
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How To Teach Your Dog The “No” Command…

How To Teach Your Dog The “No” Command…

If there’s one word you’ll be saying more than any other when you get a new dog it’s the “No” command. It’s only natural for a new to not know the rules of your house. A puppy obviously knows nothing when you first get it and a rescue most likely came from another environment with a completely different set of rules under their old roof. Either way teaching them the “No” command is vital to stop unwanted behavior. One of the main reason I teach this command is to stop them from picking up things on the ground on a walk. That’s a sure way to get your dog sick because most likely anything they’re picking up on the sidewalk isn’t loaded with vitamins and minerals. If trained effectively it can really make life easier for you and your dog. As always there are many ways to train a command so here’s just one of the way’s I like to teach the “No.” 

The only tool we need for this technique is treats. Have several different kinds handy that the dog really likes and be sure they’re hungry as well. If you train this technique while the dog is full you’re doing no justice. You don’t want them too hungry, but hungry enough to where you’ll really get their attention. So now what we’re gonna do is hold one of those treats flat out in your hand about 6 inches from the dogs mouth. Unless the dog cares nothing about that treat they’ll naturally try and grab it. When this happens you’re simply gonna say the word “No” and quickly close your hand back up into a fist. Be sure when you say “No” to say it with a little conviction. You don’t wanna yell, you simply wanna get the point across simply by your tone. A lot of dogs will keep trying to mouth the treat in your closed hand. Most will stop in about 10-20 seconds. If they don’t stop simply pull your hand away and let them reset and calm down. Once they’re calm you’ll once again place your open hand at their eye level about 6 inches away from their mouth. Once they go for it you’ll once again quickly close your hand into a fist while saying the word “No.” Repeat this process 5 times then stop for 5 minutes. The 5 times/5 min break is a session. It’s very important to train in these short sessions because it doesn’t overwork the animal and just as important it let’s the brain reset. Most dogs after 5-10 sessions will grasp the concept. As they progress you’ll notice they’ll stop lunging and mouthing at your hand so from there you can keep your hand open and just say the word “No” but keep sharp because they can be sneaky when they see that hand is staying open. The real test is when can place the treat on the ground and say “No.” It might take a few days of consistent training for them to get there but they eventually do. I’ve done this with thousands of dogs over the years and I’ve never seen a dog not get it. However I have seen a few take a little longer so if they’re a little slow just keep at it a little while longer.

Now they’ve grasped the concept of the “No” we’re going to give them the “Ok” command. This is to let them know it’s now ok to take the food. This is to only be done when they’ve respected the “No” command and its meaning. Once they’ve performed correctly for you several times with a “No” command you’ll simply say the word “Ok” and put the treat directly up to their mouth. This is teaching them basic manners and respect. “No” means “No” while “Ok” means “Yes.” The last thing you want is a dog that constantly snaps and lunges for food. The beauty of this command is it will translate to so many areas where your dog is often badly behaved so use it as you need.

The details are always the key to training so here’s a few to point out: It’s important you’re quick on the draw when closing your hand. If you allow the dog to grab that food out of your hand too many times while training this you’re teaching the dog they can easily beat you at this game and they’ll constantly challenge you in other areas of training. If you notice they’re too quick for you the first couple times what you need to do is hold your hand a little further back when holding it out. A foot should be good enough. For the dogs that are really stubborn with this connect a leash to them and correct as they lunge forward. This will stop even the most difficult ones with this problem. You need to win at the game more than they do. This is how the command is set in stone. If you beat them at a game enough they’ll give up. If they beat you more often they’ll forever challenge you. It’s a timing and persistence game and DO NOT move too fast. As I always say animals learn at the speed of life so keep in mind it’s a marathon not a sprint.

Try it out and let me know how it works. Ruff.

– Brandon
  • Marina
    Posted at 20:26h, 10 June Reply

    Shouldn’t you reward them after the 5x no session?

  • Tanya
    Posted at 12:56h, 02 July Reply

    Hello Brandon. I am fostering a dog for a few months and I have two cats. Garmr is a Pit/Great Dane mix and VERY sweet. I saw an episode here in Indiana a couple of weeks ago where you trained a dog to completely ignore a rather spunky cat. Garmr LOVES to chase cats. I cannot find the episode so I can review how you got the dog to leave the cat alone……HELP! One of my cats is the Queen and likes to corner dogs and is currently having fun getting in between Garmr and his food and in return he is trying to go after her. She can pretty much fend for herself but my other cat is not well and would not have the strength to fend off the dog no matter how innocent. I also did not realize the neighbors cat was out and on my porch last night when we got home and needles to say I got quite the rope burn from the leash because the cat bolted and the dog gave chase. I am sure it was a YouTube moment LOL!!!

    I just brought the dog home last night and so far today have been taking him out only leashed (because he likes to run away as well) and have allowed him to explore the house leashed because he is trying to go after the cats. I have been taking him out of his crate about every thirty minutes to an hour for about fifteen minutes at a time.

    I will say, he is smart and doing better even after only a few hours with positive reinforcement with treats and praise but it is not fair to him to keep him crated while I am home.

    Do you have any suggestions on how I can get this sweet about 1yr old puppy to not care about the cats? His owners girlfriend has two cats as well that she actually was keeping separated on the second floor of their house because of this.

    I appreciate any advise you could give me and I absolutely LOVE your show! You do amazing work.


    Tanya (and all the fur-babies)

  • teddjpb
    Posted at 19:38h, 02 January Reply

    Great article. I have a Black Labrador/Rottweiler mix and she is PERFECT, except for one thing: her social skills are terrible. She always barks when the doorbell rings, we always have to lock her outside when guests come over, she’s even bitten someone without warning when they tried to pet her 🙁 We can’t take her to the dog park without her guard going up. However, she really is a sweetheart and I wish she showed that to everyone. I was hoping there’d be a specific article on this website addressing this (social skills), however, I’ll be sure to use bits and pieces of what I learn from this blog and from the show to better her social skills and hopefully make her less anxious and defensive around strangers and other dogs.

  • kathy
    Posted at 16:53h, 05 May Reply

    Great article. I’ve tried what you said. However, Ginger, one yr old mini poodle adopted just under a month ago, doesn’t seem to get the point. She sure doesn’t give up after 20 seconds or so. She doesn’t settle down at all. when I pull my hand back she’ll keep jumping, climbing, anything for what seems like forever. My guess up to a few minutes in reality since I haven’t timed it. I usually give up and just walk away without giving her the treat. She still jumps…. What am I missing or doing wrong. However on our walks she is learning “walk by” which for me means leave or forgetting what you are interested in. Oh, I tried your “Get Busy” routine at potty time and it really works! Now she will potty and then run over a ask for her treat. I guess that means it’s working. Thanks.

  • DainaI
    Posted at 11:43h, 17 July Reply

    Thank you for this article, I needed it badly. Additionally, I’d like to side with teddjpd on a request for an advice on how to address the lack of social skills in adult dogs.
    I have adopted a 4,5 years old, dominant male beagle from shelter recently. His previous owner was elderly and had died (the dog had spent a month in the shelter before I got him out). What became apparent immediately was that the dog had not been socialised and trained at all, he doesn’t know any of the basic commands, he is disobedient – he showed his true self after a week or two when he got the idea that this might actually be his forever home and he doesn’t have to be timid in order not to be thrown out or passed on again – and quite aggressive. He is lunging and snapping at all the dogs, dragging me everywhere and picking up everything on the ground that passes for food, even wrappers. He counter surfs and would love to jump on cats and birds. But he is also playful, snuggly and seeks affection and can, occasionally, be patiently waiting next to me when I need to just stand somewhere. He just doesn’t know how to interact. Basically, he is a 4,5y old, 45-50 lbs puppy with enormous overflowing energy and with very strong and sharp teeth he’s never been taught not to use on others. And that’s the main difficulty. Startling as a method to discourage him from bad behaviour doesn’t help. And whenever he feels restricted or kept away from what he wants (kitchen in general, countertops, dining table, couch, any kind of edible thing on the street) he attacks and bites. A muzzle, you say? I’d have to put it on him first but if he knows one thing that’s what a muzzle is for – he tried to shred it as soon as I approached with it.
    I won’t give him up or up on him, he’s me family, my companion. I will have a professional trainer help me when in a month’s time I move to a different country for work. But I have my suspicions though that he would optimally need also a behavioural specialist since some of his issues could be rooted in his experiences up till we met. As far as I know it is not a common profession where we are moving to unfortunately. I try not to show fear or back down when he does something unacceptable/ undesirable but I will soon be a sieve and my DYI self-patching is not the solution. There’s a lot to tell but I’ll stop here.

    Keep up your good work, it helps a lot of people and their companion animals to have a better life together.

  • LISA
    Posted at 16:53h, 18 July Reply


  • Nicki Lowe
    Posted at 02:33h, 10 January Reply

    I have some of the same issues as teddjpb. My pit Zoee is a wonderful dog. She is just an attention hog. She growls at my black lab Behhr if he even starts to walk over to me with her laying beside me. We went to the dog park today and she got into it with a few other dogs. I feel really bad. Behhr has fun at the park. Zoee is alpha dog at home and always has been. She is 3 years old now. Behhr is 5 years old. How do I make her realize that she can share me? If a stranger walks up while I’m walking them she will fly into Behhr as if to tell him to back off….SHE wants the attention. Please help! How do I help her be a relaxed dog and know that I am not going anywhere. She also whines when I leave. I can hear her howling about 10 seconds after I lock the door.
    Any suggestions???

  • Lindsay Borden
    Posted at 03:44h, 27 September Reply

    I started this technique yesterday and it’s workig very well so far. My dog actually looks bored by it because it gets it so well. Although, he seems to understand it, he’s still going for the treats when we start each session, so I know he’s no 100% yet. I tested out the command on our walks today and it seems to be taking effect. Again, he’s not perfect yet but it’s only day two and maybe three or four quick sessions total, so I expect this to be fully instilled in another week or two of consistency. Thanks Brandon!

  • George Brown
    Posted at 17:15h, 03 October Reply

    Can’t get our pup to associate no with other things, how do we transfer the no so that he doesn’t just do it with treats?

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