What's so bad about the word "no"

Discussion in 'Labrador Training' started by LoopyLuna, Jul 11, 2019.

  1. LoopyLuna

    LoopyLuna Registered Users

    Jun 27, 2018
    I've been pondering this a fair bit lately, and after listening to a podcast the other day about applying positive reinforcement philosophy to all aspects of life (husbands, kids, colleagues) it got me thinking about the role of the word "no" and whether it's actually all that bad. Genuinely keen to get people's thoughts on this to help me understand or to have a bit of a debate on it. I'm totally signed up to positive reinforcement and 99% of its principles, but this is the one bit that I'm not fully bought into yet.

    In the human world, for me the word "no" is a way of saying "you're pushing your boundaries and I don't like what you're doing". I'm a pretty smiley, friendly, softly spoken kinda girl so when my tone of voice changes and becomes stern (which it does when I've fallen over a pair of shoes left at the bottom of the stairs, or when I get an unsolicited call about PPI claims) then people tend take notice and stop what they're doing. I'm not intending to scare anyone, just make it clear I'm displeased or dissatisfied so we can all move on and change the situation or learn from it.

    I appreciate that humans and dogs aren't the same, and that dogs don't have the ability to understand the subtleties of communication and intention, but is the desire to verbally mark when a boundary has been crossed really such a bad thing as long as the desired behaviour is swiftly and clearly taught/communicated afterwards to avoid frustration? Does it not help to create clarity?

    Opinions and counter arguments welcomed, reprimands are not....
  2. Michael A Brooks

    Michael A Brooks Registered Users

    May 26, 2018
    Blackmans Bay, Australia
    Loopy Luna therein lies the potential problem with no. The dog determines what constitutes positive reinforcement and positive punishment. The dog can regard No as positive punishment. Secondly, it's not very helpful. One does not use No for example to shape a behaviour because it does not tell the dog what it is doing correctly.

    If you search through the threads there was a long debate about the potential problems with the word no. My guess was that it was at the beginning of this year.
  3. pippa@labforumHQ

    pippa@labforumHQ Administrator

    May 10, 2011
  4. Jo Laurens

    Jo Laurens Registered Users

    Aug 25, 2018
    Jersey, Channel Islands
    As well as Pippa's article, there's also this one: https://barksfromtheguild.com/2017/10/10/just-say-no-to-saying-no-2/

    Saying 'no' to another human is a bit different to saying 'no' to a dog, because humans understand English and understand context. They can extrapolate to the situation at hand, work out exactly what you're not happy about and learn from that (although I'd argue it still usually isn't the best way to deal with most situations - better is explaining how whatever it is has made you feel to the other person - 'no' tends to be said out of anger and getting angry with others is usually counterproductive). (By the way I am a complete hypocrite as I get angry with people all the time LOL).

    Dogs typically have no idea which of the million things they are doing has generated the 'no' and so it gives no useful information to the dog and is just a loud sound you are making with your mouth to startle and stop behaviour. Exactly like shaking a rattle bottle.

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