The Concept of NO

Most people teach NO as an interactive direction—shouting NO while a dog is in the middle of misbehaving. Instead of teaching anything constructive, it is often perceived as interactive play or, worse, as an overwhelming threat. Neither perception provides any long-term learning value. When a dog is in the middle of destroying, stealing, chasing, or going potty, the thought to do these things has already passed: your reaction is seen as interactive, not instructional. NO in these instances sets up a vicious cycle that often increases misbehavior.

To teach your dog the meaning of the word NO, you need to catch her in the thought process; to do so, you must organize lessons until your dog understands them. If you interfere with the action itself, your dog will think you're participating, and the behavior may get more frequent or intense.

Before you set up situations (see pages 84-85) to teach your dog the meaning of NO, decide what a good displacement activity will be. For example, if you don't want her to nip you, KISSES might be a better alternative. If you don't want your dog to chew a slipper, have a suitable toy on hand to replace it. Design a table of behaviors and substitutes, and share it with all parties involved in your dog's training.

Behavior Response with NO Displacement Activity


Pull back on the leash; correct the object

Direct to area SETTLE and BONE


Pull away

KISSES or to specific need

Going potty in an inappropriate place

Clap/interrupt thought



Use leash to head off



Leash correction

TOY or other focusing commands (SIT, DOWN)

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