I know positive reinforcement is better than negative reinforcement when it comes to training dogs… but how do I turn “no” into something more positive? I feel like I’m telling my dog “no” all the time!
- Kelly and River, Denver, CO
Dear Kelly (and River),
We agree with you – positive reinforcement is definitely the way to go! Many studies have shown that dogs trained using positive reinforcement show higher levels of obedience and lower levels of aggression… and who doesn’t want that for their pup?
We caught up with SpotOn certified trainer Lynzie Bacchus of Wilo’s Wish Dog Training to find out more about how to train your dog effectively while still minimizing the use of the 'no' command. Here’s what she had to say:
“My approach is unique in that I prefer to replace ‘no’ with ‘then what,’” Lynzie says. She likes to use redirection, meaning, redirecting the animal’s behavior from what they are doing to a more acceptable behavior. This means that a jumping dog would be reprimanded with ‘then sit,’ for example, rather than ‘no jumping.’
But that doesn’t mean that ‘no’ is completely off the table. “I will use ‘no’ early on [during training] as a bridge word,” she says. “But always followed up with direction for the desired behavior. Eventually, the pup won't need to be told 'no' at all.”
“I’m a big fan of positive reinforcement,” Lynzie says. “I have had great success with this method.”
We understand your desire to train your pup using more positive language and hope this helps you out!
“I will use 'no' early on [during training] as a bridge word," Lynzie says. “But always followed up with direction for the desired behavior. Eventually, the pup won't need to be told 'no' at all.”
Do you have questions for our experts? Either leave them in the comments below or email us.
Wilo’s Wish Dog Training
Based out of Northern Michigan, Lynzie Bacchus knew at a young age she wanted to be a dog trainer. Her conviction was solidified 20 years ago when she competed her first Jr. Iditarod race with her lead dog, Wilo, at the first position. When she completed her first 172 mile race, she felt empowered and at "one" with her dogs, and knew that was a gift she wanted other dog owners to experience with their pups. Rooted in the knowledge that no two dogs learn the same way, Lynzie has been successfully connecting humans and dog owners for more than 15 years.