Teach Your Puppy The Meaning Of No

"You can’t have what you want, when you want it!”

I recently met with a client and her new puppy. Right now, the puppy, Daisy, is four months old and weighs 15 pounds.  I think that her adult weight will be at least 45 pounds. This is significant difference in weight also means a significant difference in strength.

When I met with my client for our initial consultation, my client and I were concerned that Daisy was taken from her litter mates and mamma at five weeks.  The rescue that she came from continued to raise her without the rest of her litter. By the time my client adopted her, Daisy was eight weeks old. That meant that she was missing some of the important experiences that puppies learn from their litter mates and their mamma. We had some work to do to ‘catch up’ on her social skills. I instructed her to socialize her new puppy. I spelled out what socialization would look like. My client, being the awesome client that she is, took this information and ran with it. She made sure to carefully introduce Daisy to people, children, appropriate dogs, other puppies, places, things, sounds, sights, and novel objects. She was a Dog Trainer’s dream client!

When I met my client for the second time, she was already waiting outside with Daisy. As I was stepping out of my car, I saw Daisy pulling my client towards me and practically jumping into my car. I didn’t make much of it. At our third session, my client again allowed Daisy to pull her owner to me. I knew it was time to teach this puppy the meaning of “No.”

Because my client was so keen on socializing her puppy, she was allowing her to pull her to anything and everything. She wanted her puppy to feel brave and comfortable in the world. Great intentions! The problem was that Daisy was also learning that she could have anything she wanted anytime she wanted.

This is problematic for many reasons.  For example, within a few months, Daisy was going to be a sizable dog and would be able to drag anyone of her family members wherever she wanted to go; this was counter-productive to polite leash walking.  If a dog or person didn’t want to meet Daisy, Daisy wouldn’t understand why she was being prevented from to immediately rushing up to the person.  This could lead to leash-induced frustration. This is just one of the reasons it is important to teach a puppy the meaning of “No.”

As a behavior specialist, I am always thinking ahead: how does what’s happening now influence how the dog will behave in the future. An important aspect of dog training is to teach a dog tolerance to frustration and impulse control. If this isn’t done, it can lead to behavior issues such as leash-induced frustration which can lead to reactivity. For the sake of providing a relate-able example, it’s similar to giving into a young child’s desires without limits and boundaries, leading to a very easily frustrated kid. My intention is not to anthropomorphize the dog, but rather to provide some perspective.

I acknowledged my client for her commitment to her dog’s emotional well-being and development, and then we made a plan to teach her dog to visit, only on cue. I am happy to report that little Daisy learned the new behavior very quickly! At this very young age, she is already quite civilized on leash.


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Positively Expert: Bobbie Bhambree

Bobbie Bhambree is the Founder & Director of DogCentric Training, LLC, and has been a professional dog trainer for 13 years. Bobbie is a CPDT, member of IAABC, member of APDT and is a licensed trainer with VSPDT.


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