Just Say Yes

I was talking to a friend today. She was frustrated because she had agreed to do something that she really doesn’t want to do. So I gave her the “just say No” pep talk. Say No to drugs, say No to the second dessert, say No to the favor you really don’t want to do. How much regret would we spare ourselves if we just said No when we meant it?

But when it comes to our dogs, we say No all too quickly. No doesn’t give our dogs any useful information.

Yes, on the other hand, is all powerful.

I use Yes to mark any behavior I like.  When Cluny is lying quietly on his Molly Mutt duvet while the mailperson is banging the the mailbox doors, I say Yes and toss Cluny a small piece of food. When Cluny is watching a squirrel in the trees without barking, I say Yes and offer a sliver of string cheese.

One of the principles of reward-based training is that the reward needs to occur within two seconds of the behavior. Despite my opposable thumbs, sometimes I just can’t deliver the reward fast enough. Since my dogs know that Yes always means “cookie’s coming” it acts as a bridge between the behavior and the reward. It buys me that extra second to make the food delivery.

I like Yes. It is short, precise, easy to remember.


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