My aim is to show people how much fun one can have training one’s pet, be it a dog, a pig, a chicken or a mouse. The clicker trainers’ mantra is “any animal can be taught to do anything it is physically and mentally capable of doing”. All disciplines can be trained faster and more effectively with the help of a clicker. I use it to help my dogs understand facets of obedience, agility, guard and defence work, tracking, scent work and much, much more. The relationship between handler and dog is enhanced and strengthened by this deeper understanding of each other.
As clicker training is a positive means of training behaviours, we try to never talk in negatives. One cannot train a “non-behaviour”- as an example, you can’t teach a dog “not to jump up on people “. Instead we need to think of what we’d like the dog to do. In this case, keep all feet on the floor. Reward that enough times and you’ll find your dog will no longer have any desire to jump up on you.
On the other hand, we can get rid of unwanted behaviours by using the operant conditioning principles. The principle of extinction for example – never reinforce an unwanted action. This however will not work for self-reinforcing behaviours, or behaviours which are intermittently reinforced by, possibly, another member of the household. The other approach would be to train an incompatible behaviour – e.g.: “if you sit on your bed when you hear the doorbell, something good will happen”, rather than have the dog rushing to the door every time it hears the bell ring.
Always remember that EVERY animal is an individual. The beauty of clicker training is that there is no formula – as long as the principles are correctly applied, you can adapt your approach for each new animal. And there is no right or wrong way to train a behaviour – in fact it’s been said that there as many ways to train a behaviour as there are people on this planet to train it.
If applied correctly, this training method will make you more perceptive, sensitive and compassionate. My devout hope is that this will spill over from training to your pet to your home environment, your work place, and if fact become instilled in all aspects of your day to day life.
Finally, remember that learning will always be slower if stress is present, so it is usually best, wherever possible, to first train a behaviour in a safe, familiar environment where there are few distractions. One can then go on to generalise the behaviour to different environments