An Introduction to The Game of Yes and No

Dog trainers agree that there is value in teaching a dog the concept of “Yes.” “Yes,” in dog training is a terminal bridge. Terminal bridges mark an exact moment when a dog behaves exactly how the trainer intended the dog toDog Training behave. Terminal bridges are also a promise that the trainer will reward the dog. Many dog trainers use the word “Yes,” but that sound can be changed to any other sound. Many trainers use a clicker or a whistle as a terminal bridge. Some trainers use an electronic training collar to create a terminal bridge. 

When I am teaching a dog about the electronic training collar, the first thing that I do is double-click as I would on a computer mouse on the stim button and then give the dog a treat. I do this repeatedly with very low-level stim until I can see the dog is expecting a treat when I double-click. By doing that, I can create a “yes” terminal bridge with the e-collar instead of a sound. 

The Concept of “No.”

There is less agreement about teaching a dog the concept of “No.” Many dog trainers think that dog handlers should never teach a dog the idea of “No.” “No” can also be used as a terminal bridge. “No” can mark an exact moment when a dog behaves in a way the trainer did not intend. “No” means that the dog will be punished for their actions when the trainer says “No.” A clicker, whistle, or an e-collar can be used as a marker to let the dog know they will be punished. The trainer does not have to say the word “No.” All dog trainers punish a dog when they behave in a way that the trainer did not intend. Some dog trainers punish the dog by withholding a reward. Some dog trainers punish the dog by ignoring the dog or removing them from something that the dog enjoys. Some dog trainers will shake the collar or harness and associate it with the concept of “No.”

“Yes” and “No” are Both Necessary.

Teaching a dog the concepts of “yes” and “no,” unlocks the training of a dog in many ways. It allows us to create training games. Games are fun, but the fun comes from earning rewards and being notified when we lose a reward. That causes us to compete for more rewards and fewer losses. Gameplay is a great way to align our goals with the dog’s goals and create a path for the dog to enjoy being bossed around. Teaching the concepts of “yes” and “no,” gives meaning to the opposites. “Yes” is good. Dogs love “yes.” “No” is good because “No” implies the existence of “yes,” which provides clarity to the dog, reducing stress for the dog and the handler.  

By practicing and teaching “No,” we eliminate the frustration that can lead to resentment, anger, and abuse. If a dog can learn “yes,” they can also learn “no,” and both use consistently can help us to form a beautiful relationship. 

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