How To Teach Your Dog No?
[Step by Step]

Aaron Rice Expert Dog Trainer
Written: January 17, 2022

I bet you never thought you would be reading an article about how to say the word “no” to your furry ball of love. I know it’s not easy to say “no” when they look at you with those deep, soulful, and honest eyes, but it’s essential that you do.

“No” is a fundamental command in dog training. And you can use it in a variety of scenarios: when you want to make your dog stop chewing on a shoe, or when you are showing them the rules of the house for their own safety, or even when they get over-excited at the park after laying eyes on another dog and start lunging like crazy; learning “no” will give them an understanding of what’s allowed and what’s not.

Think of it as one of the most fundamental things for a pup to know. And even though the word has an obvious negative connotation, it can (and should) be taught in a nice and caring way.

“Yes” should mean something good for your dog; they should associate it with a positive stimulus–like a treat or praise for showing desired behavior–and “no” should be the way to make them know that’s not what you, their owner, wants. And it’s also an opportunity you need to seize to correct their behavior.

In the following lines, I will share with you the right way to say “no” to your dog so you can stop unwanted conduct and begin obedience training. 

Teaching Your Dog “No” Properly

Let’s say every time the doorbell rings, your dog starts barking and anything or anyone that comes through the door; that’s not the way you want to receive your visitors, right? But it is a good occasion to teach “no.”

With your hand open and extended in front of your dog’s eyes, hold the treat so they can see it and close your hand up into a fist. Wait a few seconds till your dog stops barking, and then reward with the treat.

When the doorbell rings again–or any other unwanted behavior trigger happens–and your dog barks again, say “no” to them with a firm tone of voice. What you are going to do is wait for the dog to be quiet–no matter how short a time–to praise them with a positive voice marker like “yes” or “good boy” and reward them with a treat. 

You can use this drill for virtually any scenario. Just make sure to reward those moments of compliance–no matter how slight–until you have your dog responding to the “no” command. If you have any trouble getting their attention, use treats–and if they are hungry, much better. 

Is It Ok To Use The Word “No”? When And Why You Should Say It.

There is nothing wrong with using “no” to communicate to your dog what you don’t want them to do, but it depends on how you use it. The word “no” shouldn’t be used in an angry way, and neither in a frustrated way.

It is simply used when you want to teach your dog to stop what they are doing and do something else, for their safety or for good behavior.

“No” is an essential command to train your furry friend to respect limits and understand how far they can get. Dogs are naturally curious–they just love getting their noses everywhere–and that sometimes can get them in trouble, so teaching them “no” is paramount to shaping their notion of what’s safe and what’s not.

Get Into The Right Mindset

It is not right to have a negative attitude when saying “no” to your dog. It could actually be detrimental to your relationship with them.

So if you’re not in the best mood, take your time to do things, even postpone training if you need to. When you feel more disposed and calm, practice till your dog assimilates what you are teaching them.

Dogs may associate the word “no” with something bad–such as fear or danger– and not respond to their owners properly if they are not taught the right way.

Try to be calm and make your dog feel comfortable with the “no” command; it will be more positive and gratifying for both of you that way. 

Help Your Dog Understand The Meaning of “No”

Stick to positive reinforcement methods. Keep in mind that the more positive reinforcement you use on your dog, the faster they will learn that the meaning of “no” is simply to stop what they are doing at that moment and do something that is allowed–instead of getting frightened because they know punishment is coming.

You want to get willing compliance from your dog, not suppress their behavior.

How To Train Your Dog To React to “No”? 

There are many things that can get a dog excited–like the garbage bin–that is for sure a resounding “no” for your dog. Take advantage of these situations to have them react to the “no” command.

With the right attitude and a proper tone of voice, follow the training steps and remove the garbage from their reach. If the dog insists, repeat the command until they lose interest and immediately reward them with a treat.

Your attitude should be firm but calm and consistent to show your dog that’s something they are not allowed to do.

How To Teach A Puppy “No”? 

Teaching puppies the word “no” is very easy. The method is the same that I have been telling you so far; puppies learn quickly, even faster than older dogs even.

If your pup already knows  “sit,” tell them to sit. Now, you only have to get a treat, put it in your hand and show it to them; extend your hand towards the puppy’s eyes but not too close and wait for their reaction.

Your puppy will try to get the treat; when they get a little too close, say “no.” This will show them that they have no access to what is in your hand. Soon, although only for a split second, they will turn their head away, and right at that moment, you need to reward and praise them.

As an alternative, leave your hand open, move your hand away when your dog tires do snatch the treat away; say the word ‘no” as needed until your puppy learns that “no” means “no”–always rewarding at the slightest sign of compliance.

When To Take ‘A Step Back’?

If you and your canine companion are having a bad training day and you find yourself repeating “no” countless times, that’s when it’s time to take a step back.

Instead, do something you and your dog enjoy doing together, like taking a walk in the park or around the block, perhaps having a long session of ‘fetch.’ Try picking up training later, or even the next day.

Alternatively, you could switch to practicing other commands your dog already knows–such as “sit” or “lie down”–reward them properly, and they will feel more eager to try new things and get more of those yummy treats they love.