Teaching the marker word ‘Good’ and the command ‘No’

I cannot stress enough that the basic rules of obedience are vital to your relationship with your dog.


If she understands the basic commands you will find that modifying any problem behaviours will be so much easier to tackle than if your dog just looks at you blankly when you yell at her to obey. For example, giving a dog a command which she obeys without thought is a great way to distract her from doing something else that you’d rather she didn’t do.


Practice the basic commands every day, preferably several times a day for a few minutes at a time, in different environments, until you can be sure your dog will obey you. You will feel much happier and more relaxed taking her out when she is obedient. She will be secure in the knowledge that you care about her and that she is pleasing you and your calm attitude will help to keep her feeling calm as well.


The first things I always teach a dog are the marker word ‘Good’ and the meaning of the word ‘No’.

Good and No

Training your dog to recognise that the word ‘Good’ means that a reward is on the way is known as creating a ‘marker’. It reinforces positive behaviour and makes it more likely that your dog will repeat that behaviour. You are probably familiar with the idea of clicker training and this method uses the same principles. Once your dog understands the connection between ‘Good’ and positive things, you have a great way to reward her without having to give her food or some other reward immediately and you have a way to build up obedience commands.

To reward a dog for any action she carries out you need to be able to offer that reward within 2 – 3 seconds of the dog acting, otherwise she will not make the connection between the two events. If you say ‘Good’ within this timescale your dog will come to recognise this sound as a reward in itself and is more likely to repeat the behaviour. You may then offer her a treat soon after if you think it appropriate. Once your dog understands ‘Good’ you will be able to reward her wherever she is as long as she can hear you, and treat or congratulate her at your leisure.

In this way you can build up more complex behaviours in stages, saying ‘Good’ to encourage behaviours close to what you are looking for.

To teach ‘Good’ simply offer your dog small treats one after the other and say ‘Good’ each time she takes one. She doesn’t need to be doing anything specific like sitting, just not jumping up or otherwise doing something you wouldn’t want to reward. Practise this for 1 minute a day for a week and your dog will understand very quickly.

In the context of training, teaching the word ‘No’ is telling your dog to stop whatever she is doing. Once she learns to leave the food in your hand you can extend the use of the command to other situations. Bear in mind how you are saying it though as, if you say ‘No’ quietly when training and then yell ‘No!’ at your dog when she’s sniffing the bin she will probably have no idea that you are intending the same command!

Hold a treat in an enclosed fist, near to your dog’s nose where she could take it if your hand were open. Say ‘No’ clearly and wait. It isn’t necessary to keep repeating yourself but if it takes a very long time for your dog to give up trying to take the treat you can repeat ‘No’ after 10 seconds or so. You are waiting for your dog to give up. She may try all sorts of ways to get you to release the food, including pawing, barking, lying down and chewing your hand, but be patient and wait. As soon as she gives up, say ‘Good’ and open your hand. Practice this for 1 minute each day for a week and she will learn to wait.