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“No” Is Not a Conduct . . . However That is Not the Downside with Saying It


    Lewis, a brown and white dog, is lying on a leather couch holding a snuffle mat between his paws. He is looking at the camera.

    I don’t assume this submit goes to win a reputation contest, however right here goes anyway. I can’t get it off my thoughts.

    Trainers recurrently work exhausting to show folks alternate options to endlessly saying “No!” to their canine. Even these of us who know the pitfalls of the behavior lapse into it every so often.

    However I appear to disagree with many others about what precisely these pitfalls are.

    Right here’s why I believe yelling “No!” is a nasty concept: most people who find themselves doing it haven’t taught it as a cue for a habits educated with constructive reinforcement. It finally ends up as an aversive methodology and carries all the same old potential for fallout. It depends first on a startle response. If the canine habituates, then folks escalate the aversives.

    However that’s not the objection I normally hear.

    The Frequent Objection to “No”

    I learn it once more the opposite day, in a dialogue advising somebody who was coping with an undesirable habits by her canine. She had been telling her canine “No!” when he carried out the habits. A number of folks chimed in, stating two associated issues: “no” shouldn’t be a habits, and saying “No!” didn’t inform the canine what he ought to do.

    Each true statements. However they level to a failure in coaching, not some magical property (or lack of property) of the phrase.

    Eileen is sitting on a day bed reading a book about behavior. Her three dogs are with her, doing "naughty" things like pulling trash out of a wastebasket.
    A second when it may need been tempting to say, “No”

    The assertion that “no” doesn’t inform the canine what to do can also be true for each single verbal cue we use—we have now to train the affiliation. As an example, merely saying the phrase “flip round” doesn’t give the canine any details about what we wish them to do, both. A cue and a habits are two various things. We practice the latter and affiliate it with the previous.

    R+ trainers generally say two issues which can be contradictory.

    1. On one hand, we inform newbies any phrase could be a cue. That is true. “Lightbulb” can cue sit. “Resonate” can cue the canine to have a look at me. Trainers simply have to recollect them and have the ability to train the canine. Cues don’t even should be phrases. A cue could be a hand on a doorknob, the sound of a automotive approaching, a time of day, or the odor of vinegar. This takes some time for many of us to understand, as a result of the language side is often rather more salient to us people than anything. And we are inclined to backslide. We persistently combine up the which means of the phrase with its perform as a discriminative stimulus. I talk about this in my weblog submit, “Good Sit!”
    2. However then we additionally inform people who “no” shouldn’t be a habits. That’s additionally true, however not likely related. Once we say “sit,” “down,” or “lightbulb,” these aren’t behaviors both once they come out of our mouths. They’re cues. “No” shouldn’t be a habits, but it surely doesn’t should be. It simply wants to point reinforcement is on the market for a habits. We don’t say {that a} hand on a doorknob or the odor of vinegar can’t be cues as a result of they aren’t canine behaviors.

    Singling out “no” as uniquely meaningless isn’t logical.

    The Actual Downside with No

    Eileen is sitting in a chair outdoors. Her young dog Clara has put her head under the arm of the chair and is prodding Eileen's breast.
    A second after I positively mentioned one thing suboptimal

    I imagine the basis drawback with “no” is that individuals don’t practice it; the phrase doesn’t level to a habits that can be adopted with constructive reinforcement. And if saying it doesn’t efficiently interrupt the canine, folks normally escalate. So “No!” involves predict aversive situations: nagging, yelling, stomping, clapping, and even bodily aversives like hitting.

    Canine trainers rightly advise their purchasers to begin over and use one other phrase if they’ll train a “leave-it” or an interrupter, as a result of most of us not often say the phrase “no” to canine properly.

    However we are able to. I’ve a buddy who practiced for ages to make use of “no” as her leave-it cue for her service canine so she may say it in a nice and impartial tone of voice.

    After I Yelled “No!”

    Lewis, a brown and white dog, is on his hind legs, sniffing a container full of food on a counter.
    A reenactment of Lewis’ countersurfing with a tempting however protected meals

    Consider it or not, I yelled “No!” on the identical day I began this text, proper after I used to be pondering this entire factor.

    I make a baked dessert out of oatmeal, egg whites, almond butter, dried cranberries, and darkish chocolate. A lot of darkish chocolate. I warmed a bit of it that evening on a plate and put it on the counter. You recognize what’s coming. I rotated and Lewis was countersurfing. He had his nostril up, sniffing the dessert, about to take a chew.

    Despite the fact that I’ve taught Lewis a leave-it cue, I panicked, yelled “NO!” and clapped my palms. I did precisely what I’ve been describing. I yelled, hoping to startle him, and when that didn’t work immediately, I clapped, with the identical objective.

    What did Lewis do?

    He didn’t cringe or cower or run away. He slid slowly down from the counter and calmly got here to me, anticipating a deal with. I gave him a handful, then I eliminated the dessert from his attain.

    I haven’t educated the phrase “no” as a cue, however I’ve educated a number of different phrases that perform to interrupt, and he’s accustomed specifically to being known as away from the counter. So to him, it didn’t matter what I mentioned, nor, apparently, how I mentioned it. Lewis related a habits (reorienting to me) with my saying “No!” due to different issues I educated.

    I taught him “Pas” (go away it), “Excuse me,” (put all 4 paws on the bottom), and “Lewis” in a excessive, singsong tone (come right here). None of these phrases or phrases “was a habits” when he first heard them both, however now they signify great things if he performs the habits I’ve related to them. And by generalization, so did the “no.”

    I used to coach “Hey!” I fastidiously conditioned it to foretell nice issues for canine who come to me, since that was what normally got here out of my mouth after I panicked about one thing that affected a canine. I even practiced it in an irritated tone, so the nice reinforcer hopefully counterconditioned my cranky tone. You’ll be able to see a demo right here. I ought to do that with Lewis as effectively.

    There’s a lesson to be discovered right here. The constructive reinforcement-taught cue for Lewis to get down from the counter is: “The woman says one thing whereas I’ve my ft up on the counter.” Sure, any phrase could be a cue, however typically it’s not the phrase in any respect. We people are those caught specializing in the phrases.

    And naturally, I’m not suggesting that yelling “No!” to our canine is an efficient factor. I’ve delineated the issue with it already. It labored out for me in that prompt with out fallout, however solely as a result of it resembled actual coaching I had completed. We’d not have been so fortunate. It could have been safer if I’d come out with one among my educated cues. I must apply extra, or possibly I ought to situation “No!” in addition to “Hey!”.

    Not Solely a Semantic Argument

    Zani, a small black and rust hound mix, is lying on a mat looking up at the camera. There is a big pile of pieces of something she has ripped up in front of her.
    I don’t assume I ever mentioned “No!” to Zani

    I believed exhausting earlier than publishing this. It might give folks the misunderstanding that I’m supporting yelling “No!”. I’m not! Or it could appear pointlessly choosy. Possibly.

    However my motivation is sensible. Specializing in the phrase “no” and what it means or doesn’t imply feeds into the concept that cues drive habits. If we heart our argument on the phrase “no” not being a habits, we’re very near implying that phrases like “sit” and “down” are behaviors. And this will strengthen our unconscious tendency to imagine that canine routinely perceive language the best way we do.

    That’s the draw back of claiming, “No shouldn’t be a habits.” It provides to the confusion about phrases which can be each cues and verbal descriptions of behaviors. Typically cues could describe behaviors, but it surely’s not mandatory that they do.

    I perceive that the statements folks make about “no” that hassle me are shortcuts. Trainers don’t normally give a lecture on discriminative stimuli when first introducing folks to R+ strategies. And it’s true that individuals yelling “No!” should not normally considering of what they need the canine to do; they’re considering of what they need the canine to cease doing. So it’s nice to introduce the idea of coaching with constructive reinforcement and get folks fascinated about constructing incompatible behaviors as an alternative of repeatedly reacting within the second.

    I’m not a professional coach; I don’t work with people coaching their canine day by day. If telling people who “no doesn’t inform the canine what to do” helps most of them break the behavior, then nice.

    However I guess there are others like me who finally need to perceive these items about cues slightly higher, and the claims about “no” can sluggish that down. I do know, as a result of it’s taken me 10 years to unravel even slightly of it for myself.

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