What do you say to your dog when it gives you the wrong behavior during an exercise, or even on a walk?

If you say “sit” and the dog lays down, should you say “No?”


Unless you believe the dog is deliberately blowing you off, you should have another word in your vocabulary that tells the dog it’s wrong, but won’t confuse it with “No.”  I like to use the word “wrong.”

“No” means that particular behavior is unacceptable. Would you ever tell your dog that laying down is unacceptable? Of course not. But you can use a word like “Wrong,” skip rewarding the dog, and continue with the exercise. If Ruger was doing a cadaver exercise and alerted on an empty box, I would say “Wrong. Back to work. Find Digger.” And I’d say it in a very even tone, with no scolding. We want to keep the game fun.

If the dog just makes a mistake, don’t scold or make it feel bad. Help it get to the correct answer and then reward like crazy. One of the best dog trainers I know once said “unrewarded behavior self-extinguishes.” If the dog gets no reward for an empty box, it’ll eventually stop alerting on them. If your dog gets no reward for laying down when it’s supposed to sit, it’ll eventually start sitting.

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