Wish says “No” – Giving dogs a choice – professional dog training

Wish created a way to tell me “No”. It started with a small head turn away from me, and when I ignored it by accident, she offered the behavior of turning away from me and sitting pretty as she does in this video. I never taught her to turn away from me as a trick before she offered it… only previous training she had was to sit pretty facing me. As she was growing up, she would become worried in many social scenarios (pretty much ANY social scenario- after greeting a woman as a puppy and receiving a treat from her the woman touched her back as she was eating the treat and it frightened her so much she refused to take treats from hands for weeks… even my own hand…), even when we were training. When I raised criteria too quickly or added a new cue… she would sometimes become worried, even scared, and wouldn’t want to train anymore… I started to give her a treat when she turned away. And what happened is, instead of wanting to give up, she would just tell me “No” by turning and I would reinforce her, then I would lower criteria, and she would be back in the game. I soon figured out the triggers that made her uncomfortable, one of them being working with my other dogs, or being near other strange dogs. I learned to break things up in steps so she wouldn’t tell me “No”. She gets immediate reinforcement (a treat or a toy) any time she tells “No” by turning her head or turning her back on me to sit pretty, can you believe, after this video where she is 9 months old (where I intentionally pushed her a little so I could get it on film- which at the time I felt a little guilty for) she has only offered the “No” behavior 3 times… And it’s been a year since the last time… Sometimes she works 3 minutes for a treat or toy, if she were to just say “No” she could make me feed or play with her. But she doesn’t. This type of magic of communication between species is what makes me so excited about training dogs. When I was a little kid I read Doctor Dolittle books… and was sad that communicating with animals was as fake as tooth fairies. When I learned how much dogs can communicate with use and us with them… I devoted my life to it.

I didn’t consciously set about teaching her to say “No”, I wish I could give myself the credit for that idea… But the idea was Wish’s, I just reinforced it. I later found out that Ken Ramirez- animal training genius and god… Does teach animals to say “No” in order to give them a choice and ultimately solves the training issues that were going on and my mind was blown once more…

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– Emily Larlham (AKA Kikopup)

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