Clicker Training

What Is Clicker Training
The following article by:  GOOD DOG! TRAINING SERVICES
568 Sherburne Avenue · St. Paul, MN 55103 · (651) 647-4578
Elizabeth Hatch · "" · Peggy Irish · ""

Clicker training has been around for a long time. It is used to train animal movie stars (such as the pig who played the lead role in Babe), marine mammals, zoo animals, police and detection dogs, obedience dogs, search and rescue dogs--and more and more, it is being used by savvy folks who want to be able to teach their pet to become a happy, healthy, and welcome member of the family.

Clicker training uses a signal (such as the short, sharp "click" made by a toy cricket) to "mark," or "pinpoint" a desired behavior. The click helps the animal to understand just what it did right. The trainer teaches the animal that the click means something very good is going to happen. The animal, because it wants the reward, tends to repeat whatever actions will earn the click (and the click's very good consequences). The trainer can even start with an approximation of a behavior, and "shape" it, by gradual stages, into exactly what he or she wants. Near the end of the training process, the animal learns a cue word, or command, for each behavior.

Clicker training is a very efficient way of getting your pet trained. Like people, animals learn best when they are happy about the process. To a dog, "sit" is as much of a trick as "roll over" -- whether it's something he wants to learn (and whether he wants to do it after he learns it) depends on whether you make learning into a good experience, or an unpleasant one.

If you've never heard of training by this method before, or if you've never used it, you may want answers to some of the questions below:

What about when I don't have any treats? Won't my pet know it and refuse to do what I tell her?

A very important part of the training process is teaching the animal that sometimes, it has to do something more than once in order to earn the treat. At the beginning, you will use a lot of treats of one kind or another (but, these don't always have to be food treats--you can also use a chance to play with a favorite toy, or a chance to do something special, like take a ride in the car). But by the end of the training process, your pet will be working because MAYBE THIS IS THE TIME that he gets that special treat.

Do you mean that you NEVER punish a pet for doing something wrong?

It isn't so much that you never punish your pet, as that you end up with a bigger arsenal of possible ways to motivate her. Most people know of only one or two techniques of motivation, and after that they assume that their pet is just "being bad." At this point, they either try to force the animal to do whatever it was they asked it to do, or they give up and let the animal do what she wants to. But most pets really would cooperate if their owners took the time to explore the options. For example, if my dog jumps up on guests, I can do several things: I can lock her up in the basement every time someone comes to visit. I can punish her for jumping up. Or, I can teach her that if she goes and sits on her blanket when people come in the door, she can earn a treat for it, AND she will get much more attention from the guests. From the dog's point of view, the best option is definitely number 3, because it means that she won't be by herself every time someone comes to visit, and/or she isn't punished for being friendly. From the owner's point of view, number 3 is best, too, because having a dog that has to be locked up or punished, or who makes a pest of herself, whenever guests arrive is a nuisance. And it's actually a lot quicker way of solving the problem, because the dog is now motivated to do what you want her to do instead of being motivated to jump all over your friends (which she sees as just a way of getting attention).

Won't this take a lot longer than other methods of training?

Actually it's quicker, in most situations. Because your pet is working with you rather than following a canine agenda (which may seem incomprehensible to you), most dogs make very fast progress once they understand what the clicker means.

I've heard that you have to spend at least a half hour a day training in order to make progress. But I don't always have large blocks of time to spend.

Clicker training works best with very short training sessions. Some people make incredible progress with their pets by spending only five minutes here and five minutes there in the course of a 24-hour day. And if you get used to thinking in "clicker" terms, you'll find all sorts of one- or two-minute training opportunities. For instance: every time you feed your dog, you have a chance to work on "sit" or "down". Every time you walk your dog, you can take a minute before you open the door to practice one of your dog's obedience "tricks." And you didn't really have to take blocks of time anywhere -- you just worked one or two commands in while you were doing something you had to do anyway. A lot of people start having so much fun with clicker training that they find themselves spending more and more time training, just because they enjoy it, but you don't have to have large blocks of time to make good progress.

I'm interested, but I don't know where to start. How do I find out more about this?
Welcome to the growing numbers of people who are trying clicker training. If you're interested in joining a group class, and you live in the Twin Cities area, feel free to call me, at (612) 647-4578: we can arrange for you to observe a class session, or set up an individualized consultation.

Clicker Training: What it isn't
Gary Wilkes Click and Treat(R) Training

There are three general opinions of clicker training: it's the hottest thing since sliced bread, a passing fad or an annoyance, on par with fleas at a breed show. Often, the latter two opinions are formed after hearing too much of the former. The rhetoric of some clicker trainers sounds like a cross between an infomercial and some kind of religious experience. Deciding which opinion fits your training style begins with knowing what clicker training is -- and what it isn't.

Top 10 Misconceptions About Clicker Training ...for the rest of this copyright protected article go to the author's website underlined below the title.

Tales of the Sarschips

The following is about dogs used in SAR (Search and Rescue) written by Pat Boggs. Her site has some very nice stories about her adventures searching for lost humans and victims with a variety of dogs, including her beloved Skipperkees.  If this interests you, please check out her site:  I've copied the introduction to her stories below:

I would like to welcome you to Sarschips adventures. I know you will enjoy sharing all of the heartwarming services that Fox, Wooly and Magic contribute to our community in Search and Rescue work.

You may wish to go and get your box of Kleenex now, for we will make you laugh, make you think, and most likely make you cry. I am so very proud of these little Black Angels. And I hope you will enjoy our "book in the making"

Thanks for coming to share my life with Schips...In The Service Of Man.
For We Serve, That Others May Live....

This is the first written story that started this page.
It is more of a background type and explains the "disciplines" of search dogs...Tracking/Trailing..Air..Water..Cadaver

Search and Rescue K-9'S
Search and Rescue is a very special calling for me. I have trained many dogs for this work as the Training Director of Central Arkansas Search And Rescue K-9'S. I can tell you, that for me, only the Schip will do. It is a special bonding that comes from a deep love of this breed.

Many of us will remember the horrifying scenes that played night after night in the OK City disaster. Among the human rescue workers, we caught sight of the brave dogs who worked at their sides. The two Schips and I awaited the call. We were on stand-by. Waiting. Hoping to be allowed to serve, but relieved when we were not needed. I had looked deep inside and realized the special training needed, and found myself and the Schips lacking.

Our training has three types of "nose" work. The first is "Tracking". The art of taking scent from the ground where a human has walked, and following it to the source. Here the dog has his nose to the ground and slowly follows to the victim.

Second is "Trailing". This is where the dog will catch scent that is deposited by human passage or wind, on the ground, trees, grass, shrubs or buildings. The human body SHEDS (yep you read that correct...we shed) about 200 cells per step and these are blown or carried on the wind. The dogs head is carried up and straight ahead.

Third is the "Air scenting" dog who moves with head lifted to catch the scent carried by the wind. These are called "rafts". Each person, even identical twins, have different smells. Like finger prints, the dog can be taught to identify and follow one scent among the millions.

That October there was a seminar at Wall Doxey State Park, MS, offered by the North American Search Dog Network. This is a national group from all over  the USA and Canada. One of the courses offered was the FEMA Disaster with Bill Dotson, who is the greatest teacher.

We arrived with excitement to stares, teasing, (right of passage with Schips) and then deep interest as they watched us work. The pressure was on us now. From Disaster agility to "Bark Box" to Building searches, the Little Black Dog did it ALL; and better than some of the 39 big dogs with us!

It was a hard and demanding week, full of challenges for dogs and handlers. The agility included a 6' x12' section of chain link fence that rested at an angle against a beam 3 feet off the ground. It rocked as the dogs climb up and onto the beam that was 4" wide. Now along the beam and onto a platform to jump over a 3' wide by 3' deep hole to a grate on the opposite side. Over the down lumber and out to the end of the 6' scaffolding. must stop. Turn. Down...must stop and drop. Come...all with no help from the handler who is 6 to 10 feet away. Fox carefully navigated all and had the courage to jump over the big hole. Of course the 12" board is a 4 lane highway to a 13" Schip! Any excuse for a Schip to play King of the Hill.

The "Bark Box" is a 4' x4' x 4' plywood box that holds a person (I didn't say Comfortable!). The dog must locate and bark for 30 seconds to alert. Digging with the bark is acceptable. As a Schip loves to "announce" and is good at digging, this was no problem. We just had to make it LOUD instead of the "grumble" that Fox likes to do to the people inside the box. Now this does come with drawbacks. You can NEVER close a door in my house with Fox or Magic on the other side...loud barks and scratching will soon occur. No bedroom or bathroom door is safe...all bear the scars of the "digs" to rescue me!

As you can see, training a search dog is a full time commitment. It requires love of dogs, time, love of public service at no pay, and a great deal of talent in dog and handler.

Keeping cool in the face of danger. Good at puzzle solving. Knowledge of map, compass, navigation, first aid and survival for the handler. The ability to use radios and rescue equipment, for although our main purpose is working dogs, we always help with recovery when possible.

Most of our team have First Responder or EMT training. I have the EMT training thanks to the Little Rock Fire Dept who donated my course. Most dog and handler teams take 2 years to certify the first time they train a dog. After that it's faster, according to the dogs ability to do each of the steps...scent work, agility, obedience. The problem solving and courage, combined with the willingness to please are the most important traits. The dogs must be friendly to all people and with other dogs.

Of course we never stop training, as there are so many areas to learn about. Cadaver, Water search, Wilderness, Urban Tracking, Visual tracking (for people) and of course the Disaster training.

Would this Course be enough? Only time and training would tell...but that will be the next story. Till then Pat Boggs and Fox, Magic and Wooly will continue searching. Many more await...God grant me courage.


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