The command “no” is one of the essential commands a young puppy will learn. If you mean “no,” it’s usually to keep them out of trouble, whether they completely understand why or not, but how long will it take them to respond appropriately?
The amount of time it takes to learn the command “no” could be as little as a few weeks or as long as a few months. The time it takes will vary according to the amount of time and effort you spend training, what methods you use, and the breed of dog.
With the right approach, a puppy will learn, grow, and understand your commands as you entrench them into their desired behavioral patterns. This article identifies the best training methods and analyzes the “no” command so they learn as quickly and efficiently as possible.
The Optimal Training Window
Training is part of the package of getting a puppy, but young puppies are energetic and have short attention spans. Training becomes possible during the puppy’s socialization stage between 4 to 12 weeks (source).
You should be able to start house training and using simple commands like “No” at seven weeks. Training becomes more manageable during the puppy’s “fear” phase of 8 to 10 weeks, and most owners bring puppies home at around 8 weeks of age (source).
The puppy’s most receptive period for training is from 9 to 12 weeks of age. A puppy should essentially learn the command “No” somewhere within the age range of 7 and 12 weeks or a window of 1 to 5 weeks.
Using the “No” Command
The “No” command is important for discipline as well as the dog’s own safety. Try not to attach “No” to long, lecturing sentences. A simple “no” will do; your puppy doesn’t need long explanations as this will only confuse them.
Firm discipline is especially important for highly intelligent breeds like Rottweilers and German Shepherds, who will dominate their owners if they do not assert themselves. You don’t need to be mean or cruel, but calm and firm.
There is no need to yell; simply say, “No” in a deep, unsettling voice so your puppy understands that you disapprove of their actions. You may find it necessary to combine “No” with a light, corrective tap on the nose.
Any such discipline should be performed within a minute of the unacceptable behavior; otherwise the puppy may not be able to associate the punishment with the crime.
Please do not make the mistake of calling the puppy to you to issue such a corrective tap because they might begin to associate coming to you with punishment.
Reinforce Positive Behavior
Make sure you offset such discipline with positive reinforcement for good behavior, as this is the preferable way to train a dog when possible (source). Such rewards could be a treat, approving words, or giving them their favorite chewy toy.
Build a solid relationship with your puppy so that simple verbal commands and the knowledge of what you disapprove of will be enough for the puppy to seek to avoid that behavior.
Don’t Reinforce Negative Behavior
The opposite of positive punishment, where you take direct action toward the puppy, is negative punishment, where you take something away from the puppy that they want. The aim is still to get the puppy to stop repeating certain behavior (source).
For example, if your puppy likes to jump up to get your attention, ignore them so as not to give them the attention they seek. Giving them attention as a result of such poor behavior will only reinforce that behavior.
“No” Isn’t Always the Answer
Let’s take one of the most contentious problems — pooping in the house. Your puppy needs to poop, and you can’t say no to that. You must rather show them where they can poop.
Take the puppy to a spot in the garden when you think it’s time, let the puppy sniff around, and acclimatize, and soon they will oblige. Repeat over and over, taking them to the same spot, and soon, you will have entrenched the behavior. It just takes guidance and patience.
When entrenching the desired patterns, you have to take into account the context the puppy finds itself. When other dogs are around, such as on the beach, their behavior is different from their behavior in your garden, which is a protected space.
You will have to teach the puppy precisely what you expect on the beach when they’re likely to be in an animated state.
Don’t Overdo It
Think about it. As man’s best friend, why would we be mean to a puppy? If you lose your cool with the puppy, chances are you will damage your relationship with them. Your puppy does not understand why, and it could have a detrimental psychological effect.
This could lead to stubbornness or some sort of “shut down.” With kids, we could equate it to sulking. The puppy will refuse to cooperate as they perceive that no matter what they do, the consequence could be punishment.
Teaching puppies in this state is pointless as you will achieve nothing. For related reading, see “Do Dogs Remember if You Hit Them?”
Conversely, you can also overdo it with rewards for good behavior or compliance. The problem with “bribes” is that, eventually, the rewards have to get bigger and bigger, or the puppy loses interest in your incentive.
By taking your puppy’s situation into account and being patient and consistent, your puppy will learn what not to do and what to do in its place. Learning “no” can be confusing, especially if they are unable to associate it with what they did wrong, and, if you’re not careful, they may never learn the command at all.
Teaching a puppy to follow your commands is both demanding and rewarding, and the puppy should learn the order in the first three months of their life.
It’s up to you both. Every dog requires and expects discipline, and with this learning skill, your puppy will quickly become an obedient and charming best friend. Good luck with your puppy training!