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Are verbal corrections OK in dog training?

I use “no” regularly when communicating with my dog.

Usually it’s a sweet, “no-oh” in almost a sing-songy voice, but it does get Ace to stop what he’s doing. He is a “soft,” eager-to-please guy. (Update: Ace has passed away.)

It’s rare for me to growl out a firm “NO!” but it does happen, and it does get my point across.

Actually, my most serious verbal correction goes something like “HEY! That’s enough of that!”

For my sensitive dog, it works.

“Oh no! Mom’s mad!”

I got the idea for this post when a reader named Joyce emailed me and said a “sharp NO” helps quiet her dog down and wanted to know my opinion on this. Thank you, Joyce for your email. I certainly use “no” quite often as well.

But “no” doesn’t have to be a form of “correction” or discipline. It can be a way to calmly ask your dog to “please stop what you’re doing.” Then reward what you want him to do instead.

I use a soft, “no-oh” when Ace is whimpering over seeing another dog, for example. Then I use praise when he’s quiet.

I’m not here to say whether or not dog owners should use verbal corrections. I assume most people do, in some form. And if not, I guess that’s fine too.

I use a short, “psst!” sound for my cats, like the sound Cesar Millan uses. It works.

I also snap my fingers as a “correction” sometimes when Ace is breaking from heel or stay or when one of my pets is about to step into the kitchen, where they are not allowed. This also works.

And of course, my animals often use verbal and physical corrections with one another, too. No one is every confused about the message: “Stop!”

But are verbal corrections from people to dogs no longer accepted?

Ace the black Lab mix

When reading dog training blogs and forums lately, you’d almost think telling a dog or puppy “no” is off the table as far as a training “method.”

I agree that ignoring unwanted behavior can work extremely well, and it’s often the wisest choice, along with rewarding the right behavior.

For example, the dog is whining. You don’t look at him. He keeps whining. You go about your business. You might even walk away. Eventually, the dog stops whining and goes and lies down on his dog bed. That’s when you pet him and lie down on the floor with him or you give him a treat. The good behavior is reinforced.

I also realize that sometimes telling a dog “no” doesn’t work at all. It might even encourage the behavior.

Sometimes I scold my dog when he’s whining for attention, and what does he do? He thumps his tail.

“Ha! Got ya to look at me!” he says.

But when Ace is about to lift his leg on my grandpa’s potted flowers? A firm “NO!” does the trick.

Or the time Ace peed on the trash can in the entryway of our apartment complex? I huffed a serious “NO” at him that day. I couldn’t help it. I was mad.

He hasn’t considered marking that trash can since, even though other dogs do it.

‘No’ to save the dog’s life

And on a more serious side, telling a dog “no” can even save his life. I don’t think I need to go into the different scenarios such as when he’s running towards the street or about to eat something dangerous or when he’s thinking about confronting an unfriendly dog or a wild animal.

So, what are your thoughts on using verbal corrections?

Do you tell your dog no? Does it work? Do you try to use it sparingly? Or even not at all?

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