Change “No!” To “Yes!”

Next time your dog does something you don’t like, think of what you’d like the dog to do and ask for that.  Too commonly, we don’t take the time to give our dogs the skills and the ability to do what we’d like them to do instead of just telling her “no!”

Small dog sitting with child

If your dog jumps on people—family members coming home, neighbors you stop to chat with, guests in your home—think of what you’d like your dog to do instead.  Sit?  Lie down and settle on a bed or rug?  Calmly approach the person? Depending on your dog, some of these will be more difficult than others. For instance, a young, energetic Lab will struggle with calmy approaching a visiting person.  She’ll need to use a skill, such as a sit or a hand touch with her nose, in order to keep her feet on the ground. Choose what you think your dog will be able to do and then see if your family agrees.  You’ll need everyone on board to make a consistent change.

Once you teach your dog the skill you select, plan opportunities where you can work on it.  Stand away from neighbors and ask your dog to sit.  Say “Yes!” and reward your dog for sitting or have your neighbor toss or hand your dog a treat—but only if your dog stays sitting.

If you want your dog to settle, first teach your dog to station on her bed by rewarding her for standing on it, then sitting and then lying down before family members arrive home.  Reward while people come in the door and release the dog when the people are settled.  You should also have your dog do something—like sit or touch a nose to a palm—once you release her to greet your guests—so she’ll know exactly what to do. Reward the good behaviors often with high-value treats and you’ll build a great history of positive association with that skill.

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