Teaching “Yes!”

by | Feb 15, 2021

Teaching your dog is a lot like teaching someone to speak the same language as you, even though they have no prior experience with it. Creating an understood dialogue between you and your dog is the first step to success, and it all begins with teaching “Yes!” This is a phrase that will be used as a reward for their good behavior for the entire length of your training.

To teach “Yes!’, you simply. have to say this word when your dog does a behavior you like and follow the word with a treat. “Yes!” is a verbal mark that tells your dog you are happy with the action they just did.

Keep in mind that “Yes!” is not so much a command but rather a verbal cue that marks the behavior your dog just did as positive and deserving of praise. Using treats, you can establish a strong connection between the word “Yes!” and the tasty morsel they are about to receive. Teaching this praise word to your dog couldn’t be easier and can be used in various contexts, especially when you aren’t right next to the treat jar.

How To Teach “Yes!”

When you begin training your dog, it can be difficult to manage treats, leashes, clickers, poop bags, water bowls, and chews, all on top of keeping an eye on your dog’s actual behavior. Being able to praise your dog with “Yes!” allows them to connect their most recent action or movement with positivity on your end. Using strong smelling treats such as Merrick Beef Power Bites and Full Moon Chicken Training Treats are an excellent way to firmly attach that “Yes!” word to a delectable reward that your dog really understands.

To begin, simply place a treat near your dog’s nose to get them interested. When they take the treat from you, or you put it in their mouth, say “Yes!” with an excited tone. Repeat this a couple of times so that your dog will being to associate the word “Yes!” with being rewarded. You can use toys or environmental changes, such as being let outside, as a reward for your dog as well. Begin attaching “Yes!” to every training exercise, and you will begin to see that your dog associates this word with receiving a reward from you.

When I took my youngest pup, Kashi, out to brunch with us when she was about three months old, I was tangling myself up between all of the things we brought to keep her entertained and occupied. A server came by, and Kashi offered a perfect sit while we were ordering, even without my asking. Immediately, I gave her “Yes!” several times throughout the encounter and let her have several treats after we finished ordering. This was an excellent opportunity for me to praise her and let her know I liked her behavior, even though the treats were temporarily out of reach.

Another consideration is that, when praising, you have about three seconds to offer the praise based on the behavior you are looking to reward. If you wait much longer than this, your dog won’t be able to connect the behavior they just did with the praise you are giving them. A good example is asking your dog for a down and then walking away to get a treat. If they lay down and you attach “Yes!” immediately, then walk for the treat, they will know that the down behavior is what you were looking for.

Down The Road – Phasing Out Treats

The ultimate goal of teaching “Yes!” is for your dog to gain a solid understanding of what you are asking for them. After pairing the word “Yes!” with treats for a reasonable amount of time, you can begin to withhold treats intermittently and give verbal praise. This is important as there will be times when having a treat or toy on your person at all times can be difficult, if not impossible, to maintain.

Having your dog know that you like their behavior is paramount to successful communication between the two of you. As an owner of two Australian Shepherd, I know I have gotten fortunate with eager-to-please pups. For dogs who are more stubborn or less engaged with your verbal praise, continue to use treats until they have a rock-solid foundation with the word. Slowly begin reducing the number of treats for successful behaviors, such as sitting and rewarding every other sit with a treat and “Yes!” Of course, only reduce treats and praise once your dog is more comfortable with a command and you are confident that they will follow through with what you are asking.


Remember, “Yes!” is a word to attach with treats so that your dog can have additional praise that can mark the wanted behavior. Using good treats is important in the beginning so that you can firmly associate the word “Yes!” with something your dog might love even more than you: food.

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