Basic Command “No”

By admin Posted in Basics /

Dogs need to know when they have done something right and when they have done something wrong. When they have done wrong they must be corrected with a deep, low-pitched “Nooo,” because dogs growl in low tones when they say, “I mean business.” However, for humans to effectively growl, “No” is very difficult. In fact the nearest sound to the mommy dog’s reprimand is, “Bah” or “Bad” said in a growling, guttural voice. It will usually have your dog paying attention immediately. Try to use it every time you correct your dog, followed by a gentle, “Good dog ” when they respond correctly.

Breed genetics and early learning will determine to what extent a dog will show aggression and will chase “prey”. However, since dogs are pack animals, preferring to hunt in groups, its social position in the pack is determined by its aggressiveness and it will protect its position and territory. So, at a club we may find that a dog will often aggressively protect what it perceives as its space and mates and turn on newcomers to the club. At home this aggression can be aimed at other dogs and family members.

You can’t blame a dog for being a dog. So, to punish a dog for something we may think is a mistake, when in the dog’s mind it is normal dog behaviour, will only lead to confusion and training difficulties!

It must be remembered that biting is natural, normal dog behaviour! Puppies are little biting machines and need to be taught about when it hurts. This is especially true when puppies were taken away from their litter too soon and have not had sufficient opportunity to play freely with other dogs and experience play biting. That is why every young dog needs to be taught what it is allowed to do and what not! What can be bitten and what not. How hard he is allowed to bite or nibble on your hands. Puppies should also be provided with toys such as hard rubber balls, knotted ropes, hooves etc to ease teething discomfort. If the pup chews the wrong thing, he should not be smacked or shouted at, but be told firmly, “Bah” or “Bad” or “Don’t touch” and be taken away to a safe area and given something else to chew. If a highly energetic puppy barks, growls and mock-attacks, he is merely attempting to play and should be prevented from biting by holding him until he calms down.

An adult must strictly supervise young children when they are near puppies!

It is totally inappropriate for a young dog to bite the furniture or to use his teeth on a young child or family member. This is particularly true when children are involved. Kids and puppies need constant supervision because kids do all the wrong things around dogs. They scream, wave their arms, fall down etc and the puppy thinks they are playing. It should automatically receive a firm growly “Bah” or “Bad” command or a very loud “Ouch” when he bites someone even if it does not hurt very much. You need to let your puppy know that biting hurts! He should then be left alone for a short while to learn that when he bites too hard he has no one to play with. After a short while call the pup to sit next to you, make friends and play again. It is important to show that you love your puppy, but that you do not allow painful bites! The puppy soon learns that hard bites stop enjoyable games. Bite inhibition exercises should continue for as long as needed and at the same time his energy should be redirected to other toys where he can bite with more strength.

Once you have taught your pup to bite gently it is time to teach him to stop when ordered to do so. Play with a tasty tidbit or kibble between your fingers at about the height of the dog’s head. When he comes to get it, close it in your fist and say “Leave.” At first the dog will ignore you and try to dislodge the food by nudging or licking your fist. Repeat “Leave” until he backs off when you open your hand and say, “Take it.” By the fourth time most dogs understand that in order to get the food he must first obey the command “Leave.” The idea is to get the dog to stop biting your hand, child, chair or the lead etc. when you say, “Leave.” Gradually the time lag between backing off and giving the reward can be lengthened by adding “Good dog one, good dog two” etc. before giving it.

When the dog backs off after being ordered to, it should be praised and loved because at that point he is no longer doing anything wrong. The biggest mistake new handlers make is to start moving towards the dog BEFORE they say “Bah,” “Leave” or “No.” The dog will react to the movement and will not learn the meaning of the word, “Bah,” “Leave,” “Bad or “No.”: When the pup shows signs of respecting the word “NO-LEAVE” and backs off they also do not praise him any more. Praising him, “GOOD DOG” when you see he has stopped doing something that you warned him about is your way of communicating that he is doing the right thing. Let him stop what he is doing and then distract him into another activity. This is a way of showing him what appropriate behaviour is.

The “NO” command should not be over used. Don’t nag. Be patient with a young dog! Timing is all-important! When you are out walking your dog on a leash and another dog approaches, watch closely for the slightest display of aggression and immediately give an early leash-check and a “No-leave!” Timing is very important because a correction give after the aggression has started may cause more stimulation and you virtually have to drag some dogs away to break the aggression. Remember to give praise for good behaviour.

Another problem with the “NO” command is that it is used by and on the rest of the family. If you have two dogs and you reprimand one using “NO” the other dog now becomes confused, or if you shout “NO” at your child, the dog cowers and runs away. It may be better to give the dog his own command like “Bah,” “Bad,” “Phooey” or “STOP” to avoid confusion. If he hears “STOP it” he soon learns that it means not to dig or bark or to get off the couch, stop chasing the cat, etc. I found that the “Uh, Uh!” sounds or “That’s enough!” or loud clapping of the hands work for me. When a puppy is brought near a cat, he should always have a collar or choke chain and leash attached. As soon as he shows signs of moving towards the cat, he must be given a firm “LEAVE IT,” command before he attempts to chase the cat.

Please read my article “Cats and Dogs” in Problems where I explain the “Leave – it” command in more detail.


The need for a dog to chase a cat depends to a large extent on genetics and early training. Wild dogs will chase any prey. Rottweillers and Pit Bull Terriers may also want to catch and kill a fleeing cat while the Labrador Retriever may simply want to play with it. Make sure that the cat can always escape upwards when the dog stresses it. In most cases dogs and cats will become friends after a while. Mature cats usually have no difficulty in sorting puppies out.

When teaching older dogs the “BAH”,”NO”, “STOP” or “LEAVE” command, they must always have a line attached in order for you to have good control over them. Never call an untrained dog unless it wears a line and you have one end in your hand is a very good rule. However, a far more effective way will be to watch the dog’s body language and say “Leave” when it is looking at and “thinking” about chasing the cat or stealing its food. Repeat as often as needed until the dog understands the meaning of the “LEAVE”, “BAH”, “NO” or “STOP” command. The verbal correction of “Bah” at great distances will help the trainer to solve future problems in training.

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