"It's Okay" is really not O.K.
“It’s okay” is not O.K.
Really and truly, saying “it’s okay” to your dogs (at times) is really not okay.
What I mean by this is; when one addresses a negative behavior with encouraging words like “it’s okay”, you are only reinforcing the undesired behavior through your expressive intent. Try using the word “no” or “leave it”.
Imagine yourself in a stressful situation, one of which has you literally freaking out to no consolation, and a friend comes up behind you and touches your shoulder, saying “it’s okay”. NOOOOO, it really is not okay! I am stressed and you just added to my stress by, #1 touching me, #2 acknowledging how stressful this thing is in front of me, #3 by not recognizing what I really need and that is to trust YOU to not make matters worse and actually help keep me safe!
Rule of thumb, help your dog when you feel the need to say, “it is okay”. Ask yourself; what is it that is causing my dog stress, what can I do to help them arc this stressor and make a more positive scenario, what have I done overtime to allow this behavior to escalate?
Look at what it is that you are trying to comfort your dog from and maybe take yourself out of the situation. If your dog is older than 9 months, you should be coaching your dog not cheerleading them. Or even, tell them to leave whatever it is they are looking at alone, mind their business or hey dude or dudette, “NO”, that is not the desired reaction I want from you.
It is okay should be used when you are giving permission for something, like taking food from a child’s hand, or giving permission to go greet someone. EVEN then, try to use different verbiage, like it is alright (to take the food) and go visit (to greet someone).
Use your words with your dogs, your understanding of your vocabulary elicits an emotional inflection when verbalized. That is the biggest piece of your dog understanding what you want, using the proper word for the proper emotion. No should mean NO, don’t do that. Leave it should mean, leave it alone and/or mind your business (I just added the minding your business, as they should most likely be minding their own business).
And lastly, nothing is really O.K., okay (to me) is mediocre, okay is satisfactory, okay is not above or below average. How about “YES”, “GREAT”, “GOOD”, “EXCELLENT”, when your dog is doing a great job. Or, “NO”, “HELL NO”, “STOP”, when your dog is performing below average. We have muddled so much with our wording, being overly cautious to our use of certain words, afraid of hurting someone or something’s feelings. TRUST ME, your dog will appreciate all your honesty. Even more than most people will, they will embrace your true intentions and move forward with vigor and confidence, having a trustworthy and communicative leader by their side.
Say what you mean and mean what you say.