Teaching your pup the meaning of “No”.
So for years people have been screaming “No!” at their dogs with varying results, usually when the dog may be trying to achieve something it wants.
Many people get puppies and bring them home without any type of management plan. It does not take long before they stop supervising the pup and the pup gets into something they don’t want it to. In no time at all the big NO! comes out and of course given the tone and often volume this interrupts what the puppy is doing.
Within a few days of poor management and many NOs!, the puppy learns to ignore the owner and this will often prompt the owner to go to the pup and punish it. This leads to a puppy that believes that sees the owner as a source of pain, punishment or loss and there goes your recall.
It isn’t hard when I have laid it out to see how things can transpire but nevertheless they do.
So what can No mean?
No can be a cue that tells the pup that you are going to hurt him, if that is what generally happens around the word no. The problem is that the pup may not stop the behaviour but instead just not do it around you.
No can be a signal that means something else if that is how you teach it to your pup, I like to set the value of No or to my dogs “Nope” (it’s a touch sharper in syllable) as you have lost the reward.
That’s right the word Nope is a signal or marker that predicts Negative Punishment. Negative Punishment is a quadrant of Operant Conditioning which means the removal of an expected reward.
When I start teaching this it is not when my puppy checks out in training and tries to access another reward and I jump in, it is when my puppy is focused on my reward but fails to give me the desired behaviour. Then I give the No Reward Marker (NRM) and end the game.
I repeat this sequence until I see the puppy alter its behaviour when I give the NRM, puppies will usually freeze, and perhaps put their ears back, whilst some others will get aggressive, whine or become frustrated at the thought of loss.
An example might be that you are playing tug and the puppy bites your hand, you freeze and say “Nope” and the dog stop and looks at you, you might say “yes” and then play on with the game. You successfully stopped the hand biting and then rewarded for stopping.
Your puppy might get distracted and look away from you in a focus exercise, Nope. The puppy has the chance to look back at you to re animate the game.
Not always will I restart the game, because a pause or delay in reward may not be a big enough penalty for the mistake made.
Setting the value
Remember a NRM is a Conditioned Reinforcer. This means that it is a neutral valued word that you “condition” to have a negative value. The word itself predicts loss.
This is done by setting the dog up to have a mild failure on a behaviour that you will not want to be tested on later. What does that mean?
Say that you were going to use the sit position to teach the NRM and later on you would use the sit position in a obedience competition. We don’t want to condition the sit cue with a lot of loss of reward value and believe me this can happen easily.
So instead you need to NRM many different random things so that the only common point is the NRM word “Nope”. Each time Nope is said the game ends right away.
Your demeanour changes from motivational, upbeat etc to frozen for a second, deflated and no game.
You should have a dog that will engage with you on a word or phrase, “Ready?”
If you don’t have this there is no “expected” reward to remove.
Once the dog is engaged I might just wait until the dog looks away, then give my first NRM, end the game.
I wait a few minutes then bring my pup out again, this will usually see the pup have a higher level of drive now as it lost the last reward, this generates frustration and thus more drive, thus more to lose.
Again trigger drive and NRM something innocuous. Anything really, end the game.
Do this 2 – 3 times and then o the last game end just leave the puppy in the crate and stay nearby.
An hour or so later I repeat observing the behaviour that happens right after the NRM.
The ideal outcome is a dog that looks straight at you. When this is the most common thing you see you can restart the game with another ready and play on.
Once we give the NRM and we can see that the puppy alters its behaviour, then and then only can we use the NRM to correct a behaviour. If the NRM is not solid you will not have a solid foundation system from which to train.
No as a punisher
I would have a different word or phrase to use as a punisher, but I would not add that to a dog under 5 – 6 months of age. A punisher is usually something that is paired with an aversive, like a correction from a chain or collar of some sorts.
This is outside the scope of my Training in Drive System so is covered in my remedial programs.