Friday, January 27, 2023

Saying NO to your Dog!

It’s OK to say NO to your dog

(This post written by Stephie Guy: The Shouty-Barky Dog Lady)

There’s a lot of confusion in the dog training world about the word NO.

I hear it all the time on my walks, most often from people leaning over their lunging barking dogs yelling NO in a stern voice, or from pet parents pulling their dog away from a tasty snack on the pavement whilst shouting NO.

Chatting to members of my shouty-barky dog group this week, I learned that it’s used a lot in the home too. NO to barking out of the window, NO to barking at visitors, NO to picking up a forbidden treasure, NO to chasing the cat.

The problem with using the word NO in all of these situations is that it often isn’t specific enough. I have to say, it’s a heck of a confusing concept for a human to understand, never mind for a dog.

Picture this. I’m sat on the sofa watching TV and totally absorbed in a conversation I’m having on social media. I’m absently eating chocolates and I have a cup of coffee in my hand.

My husband walks in, looks at me and says “NO”. I don’t hear him. He thinks I’m ignoring him so repeats it. I’m so engrossed in conversation that I still don’t hear him. I haven’t seen him either so I don’t know that he’s looking sternly at me. He then says “STEPHIE NO”.  This gets through to my brain. 

I look up and around, confused. No? No what? No don’t have that conversation? No don’t watch TV? No don’t eat those chocolates, don’t sit there, don’t put your cup down, don’t drink that coffee?

I have the advantage over dogs in this situation. I have a wrinkly brain that can think quickly, I can process many things at once, and crucially, I can ask “What? What’s wrong?”

Wouldn’t it have been simpler in that situation if he’d said “Stephie give me the coffee! It’s gone mouldy, I’ve got you a new one”.

Back to dogs. When you say NO is your dog able work out which bit of what they're doing needs changing? Probably not.

Let’s dig deeper…

  • Is your dog ignoring you or are they concentrating so hard that they simply haven’t heard?
  • Are they carrying on with whatever they’re doing because they don’t understand what you want?
  • Does your NO leave your dog guessing about what they should do instead?
  • Is the thing that they’re doing more fun or rewarding than your alternative?

The trouble we humans have is that saying NO can be instinctive. If we’ve been brought up in an environment where NO has been used a lot, it’s likely to be the first word we reach for. It may be that we’ve tried using STOP or DROP and it simply hasn’t stuck because we’re hardwired to use NO

And that’s OK.

We just need to teach our dogs what to do when we say it.

Great idea Stephie. But how?

Try this:

  • Every time you catch yourself saying no to your dog this week, write down what your dog was doing
  • Think about what you’d like your dog to do instead. Would a recall fix the problem? Would you like your dog to look at you and wait for the next instruction? Pick something that your dog already knows how to do.
  • Play around with pairing the word NO with the thing that you want them to do instead. And I do mean play around with it.
  • Literally, play with your dog, say NO then say what you want them to do and reward handsomely with treats or more play or whatever it is that motivates your dog.
  • And let me know how it goes!

Do you say NO to your dog? It’s OK if you do, we just need to teach your dog what it means.

Stephie is a dog trainer and behaviour consultant specialising in sensitive, anxious and shouty-barky dogs.

Join her on facebook here: The Shouty-Barky Dog Group // Mum’s Away, Pup’s OK

Or browse the website here:

Realistic Expectations in Goal Setting

Having Realistic Expectations When Setting Your Goals

This can be really challenging for us as dog owners and also for dog trainers! Plan too much for too short of a time and it becomes impossible giving us an excuse to give up. Plan too little and seems like we are not making any headway. Sometimes life gets in the way with unexpected events that slow us down. Sometimes we misjudged our dogs abilities to learn certain things, especially when our dog is an adolescent. Then if you look at every trainer, every owner, & every dog is different we have to accept that a training plan simply can not be a one-size-fits-all plan. Here are a few questions I like to ask myself when creating a plan for my dogs.
  1. Is the goal achievable in this 3 month plan or is this something that is a long term goal that has a smaller goal of making progress. Let's look at leash manners for example. At 6 months old Azul could heel really well in indoor environments however I never want him to heel the whole way on a trail or exercise walk. This was my outside environment goal for Azul from 6-9 months: Maintain leash manners fitting the environment with consistent training as needed throughout the adolescent phase. Now this is not very specific but was part of an ongoing long term goal. Here are the training guidelines for 6-9 months: 1.1 Continue all basic cues (sit, down, left/right, wait, etc.) that have been taught in previous training plans using the correct leash/tool for each environment. (Management tools of a dual clip harness & leash) 1.2 Continue developing the heel or loose heel position by rewarding when it happens naturally, with games to build value (proximity game), and short training sessions around mild distractions.1.3 Be sure to provide 15-20 minutes of general sniff-a-bouts every day. Allow your dog to process all that is in the environment at their pace. None of these were expected to be perfect by the end of the 3 month period and that is why they didn't include any type of measurement. This is because during adolescence dogs make progress, move backward, with skills varying from day to day and environment to environment. To set measurable goals during this time, would be unrealistic. Instead my goal was to make progress over the 3 month plan moving towards my end goals.
  2. How challenging is the environment in which we will be training this goal & how many different environments will we be training in?  If we are training a totally new skill such as mat/place training and we focusing on mainly teaching this at home, we might achieve the success we are looking at in 3 months. However if we are planning on taking this training into multiple environments as you would do if you were training a Service Dog, you might have an section in the plan that states how many environments or what type of environments. Azul's 6-9 month plan included games that would take place at home to develop cues and build a reinforcement history. Then we would begin to expand into new environments.
  3. How will I use reinforcement during this stage of the training plan?  Often it is easier to use food when training new skills and adding cues to those skills. But once those are learned we want to move toward self reinforcing behaviors or games that provide reinforcement. For Azul's 6-9 month plan under the Mat/Place training goal was a plan to play Hide-n-Seek & Find It games by setting up Azul on his mat, then going to hide me or the object to find, and finally release him to race to his finds. The search behavior is often highly reinforcing and with these games we built a reinforcement history while we were having fun and thus eliminating the need for treats during mat training.
  4. Is my dog physically, mentally, and emotionally prepared for this goal?  We know adolescence is challenging but there also could be other things to consider. I start parkour fun pretty early when a puppy's joints may not be fully developed that means I have to have very low objects for them to practice Paws Up and All The Way Up to prevent injury. Puppies love to climb so its mentally OK and often actually helps puppies to destress because of the fun and teamwork involved. These parkour sessions generally take place at home and might begin to start in other environments but I avoid practicing in environments that might be filled with emotionally distracting stimuli. I made this mistake once when Azul! He had done parkour in and around benches at a local park for a very long time. Then once I wanted to practice on bench in a downtown district that we had not done much training in. In my mind, Azul should have been able to do the skills that he knew very well in that environment however he was much too distracted by the traffic and all the smells in the nearby bushes. He was not mentally or emotionally prepared to have a training session in that moment, nor was my reinforcement a high enough value to grab his attention. We really need to consider physical, mental & emotional needs when training Service Dog tasks as well...Mobility tasks require physical maturity. Medical Alert tasks require mental maturity. And PTSD tasks and those for emotional disabilities absolutely need to wait until the dog is emotionally mature and sound.

Individualized Training Plans

It becomes easy for us to look at videos of that 4 month old puppy walking in a perfect heel for 60 seconds and get upset that our 18 month old dog can't heel for longer than 5 minutes. However there are a few things wrong with that picture. 

First that's just a short period of time without showing what was happening the rest of the time. 

Second, a 4 month old puppy is still naturally hardwired to follow mom and stay close to mom, whereas your adolescent is hardwired to explore further and further away from the safety of family. That young puppy has a limited sight range, sounds don't hold much value, and smells are only beginning to make sense. Your adolescent has amazingly strong senses of smell (400 times greater then humans), hearing (up to 8 miles away), and sight (prone to catching movement at a large distance) which makes the environmental distractions so much more distracting! 

Then of course you need to look at what else has happened to that dog on that day, during that week, during their lifetime? Do they have an emotional experience that leads them down the road of optimism or fear? Do they have a health issue going on? Are they dealing with being trigger stacked or coming down from a moment of extreme excitement? What does the teamwork between dog and owner look like? Is the owner perhaps dealing with a medical issue that they don't even know about yet?

We have to take into account that each human is different and so each dog! We are all unique individuals with experiences, expectations, and habits. That young puppy has less of a history to draw from making it easier for them to learn rapidly, respond quickly and find reinforcement more reinforcing.  When building your training plan, you must consider your needs as a human handler and your dog's needs as the individual they are, in order to set your team up for success.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

NEW Canine Car Club

Announcing the NEW Canine Car Club!

This is a totally new class using a new format! For years I've done car desensitization with my own dogs and over the last few years I've helped many other dog owners learn how to go through this process. But now I'm pulling it all together in a group for both local in-person clients and virtual clients.

I will be using the Zoom format mainly for audio purposes only. Participants will be required to sign into zoom to listen to my directions. I will be using headphones and not looking at my phone at all so there is no need for participants to turn on video unless they want me to observe their dog's body language.

Lessons will be designed to teach you how to develop calm manners in and around your car, desensitize to seeing other cars moving, people moving, and dogs in the parking lot, and developing a safe way to transport your dog. Here are a few key points that will help you determine if these sessions are right for you.
  • Multi-dog households can bring multiple dogs with one registration. 
  • Locally, I will be using my demo dogs as a distraction inside and outside the car. 
  • Virtually you will be choosing parking lots based on the distractions you want to work with.
  • If your dog is feeling safe, calm and comfortable in the moment you may have the opportunity to practice short periods outside for potty, sniffs, and mini-breaks. But you will want to make sure your dog has taken care of this need before coming to the session.
  • You will want to provide fresh water and high value reinforcement for your dog during the session.
  • Each session will last roughly 30 min of actual work time and another 30 min of review, Q&A, or individualized help.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Online Training Special

In celebration of launching the all new Online Positively Puppy Paws Classroom 1 yr ago today, I've decided to run a discount for the rest of January!

This virtual classroom is great for anyone who has a puppy under 6 months old or is planning to get a puppy in 2023.

This classroom is a steal at $125 for lifetime access to the materials. Now through Jan 31st you can purchase this program for just $65.

The online program allows you to work at your own pace and review sections as often as needed. This is not the same as an in-person puppy class! Instead you learn about the nature inside your puppy; how their brain is developing and how you can shape that development to guide the pup in becoming the dog you've always dreamed of. You will also learn how to use positive training methods that involve a dog centered care approach to build up the desire in your puppy to do the behaviors you'd love your puppy to do again, and again, and again. This games based approach teaches you and the puppy to develop teamwork based on a concepts approach rather then a specific list of tasks you hope to accomplish.

Whether your training your family pet or training your dog for a working career such as a service dog or therapy dog, you will enjoy doing the games in this classroom. 

Find out more on our virtual training site at

Purchase now through Jan 31, 2023 for only $65.

Class includes:
--lifetime access to materials
--facdbook group for interactions with other puppy owners.
--free support via text/messenger until your pup is 6 months old.

Don't miss out on these "New Puppy Fever" savings!

Saying NO to your Dog!

It’s OK to say NO to your dog (This post written by Stephie Guy: The Shouty-Barky Dog Lady) There’s a lot of confusion in the dog training w...