Monday, September 28, 2015

Clicker training: I don't have time for that!

I was going to wait to write this once I have taught my dog Seth to pick up the bite sleeve [that he's afraid of] but I can't wait!

I've said multiple times on this blog, I am not a PR only trainer! I do use a clicker and food and generally speaking try to use motivation to get my dogs to do things, but I am not afraid to use properly timed and effective corrections when I feel the situation calls for it. Those situations are few and far between.

Earlier this year I talked to someone who told me they had a dog struggling with the retrieve. The dog would get the dumbbell but would not bring it back. This person was under the impression the dog had been taught a forced retrieve. For anyone reading who has no idea, a forced retrieve is where you cause the dog pain [typically an ear pinch] and once the dog is vocalizing you shove the item to be retrieved into their mouth. Eventually the dog somehow gets the idea that if it does what you want in the correct sequence it will avoid pain. I get it, it will eventually work A lot of people use this technique. I am NOT judging. To each their own. Do what you gotta do/do what you know. Anyway back to the story, I suggested that this person use a clicker after explaining that I had a dog who was afraid of the dumbbell and through the use of the clicker I was able to help him get over his fear.

What did she say to me?

"Oh, I don't have time for that!"

I honestly don't know how I kept my eyes from rolling back up into my head. All I can wonder is, does this woman really want the dog to bring her the dumbbell or not? If she does, does she want the dog to be happy about it?

It really took me by surprise because I am not pure positive in my training methods and I thought she was looking at me like I was one of "those people". Not that that is a bad thing! But I was thinking, it's not like I am a purely positive trainer waving my PR flag throwing cookies at everything. I thought I was legitimately helping her out because the clicker worked GREAT for me! I feel like Seth is proof that clicker training is effective and that it works! I know I have shared his dumbbell videos before, but here is Seth when we first started trying to get over his fear of the dumbbell:

As you can see, he's very unsure and nervous about putting the dumbbell in his mouth. He does it, but he's not exactly excited about it.

Here he is just a few days ago:

And here he is today! We still need to work on perfecting the jump portion, but I never imagined he would retrieve over the jump!

He's like a completely different dog!

I think it is important as dog owners to have a large "tool box". No two dogs are the same, so when one training approach is not working you might need to try another one.

I really enjoy using the clicker because I feel like it makes marking a behavior very easy. You can also say "yes!" but I feel like my finger is faster than my mouth and the clicker is a very unique noise - so I feel like dogs pick up on what it means right away. I have also seen a lot of people overuse "Yes" and it becomes more meaningless. Unless you repeatedly click the clicker over and over, you can't really overuse it and it is really easy to capture a certain action or behavior.

I am really pleased with Seth's progress and extremely happy with my results in using some positive reinforcement and clicker training. I don't think this kind of result could have been achieved any other way, I do not think he would be where he is at if I forced him into the retrieve.


  1. Seth looks so happy in those photos! I'm glad that clicker training worked for him and that you like it so much! :D It's pretty amazing what they can learn when you get going with it!

  2. Glad clicker training works for you guys!