Not sure about clicker training? Here are some reasons to try it

Clicker training is a wonderful way to teach your dog any behavior. Clicker-trained dogs are more than trained – they are excited about learning, interested in what you might teach them next. They become active participants in the training game, rather than automatons that don’t think and merely perform at your whim, without enthusiasm or interest. They learn to learn, and actually learn to think, which enables them to achieve more than dogs taught by the old traditional dog training methods. They also learn to look at their teacher (you, the trainer) in a tremendously positive light – no fear, and total trust.

There is no reason to use harsh methods to train our dogs. All creatures, from the lowly ant to us lofty human beings, learn their best lessons when permitted to figure out what works best in a given situation. Pulling, jerking, manipulating, “scruffing,” ear-pinching, shocking, and other tough-guy methods actually are successful with our very forgiving dogs, but at great cost: They damage the relationship between dog and trainer, and in some cases can cause serious injury to the dog. And if we lofty human beings think about what we’re doing to our dogs with these methods, we might realize we are probably also causing injury to our tender psyches as well.

Clicker training is used to teach a dog new behaviors. Once the dog has learned a behavior solidly (meaning the dog will respond instantly to the verbal or “hand” cue, anywhere and at any time) the clicker is weaned off for that behavior. Many clicker trainers don’t use a clicker at all after the dog is “trained” – though some of us love the game so much we continue to teach our dogs new behaviors for their entire lives. Sometimes we bring the clicker out, too, to brush up on old behaviors that may have gotten rusty (not used in a long time, or perhaps some behaviors that break down for one reason or another). But it is a tool that isn’t needed except when teaching new behaviors.

In teaching a dog new behaviors, in my opinion, there is no method that works as well as clicker training. I love the attitude my dogs have with this method. I love the fact that whenever they hear a clicker touch a coin in my pocket, they rush to see what the game will be. I love the fact that I don’t have to force my dogs to do anything, and don’t have to manipulate their bodies into positions they can get into themselves (I mean, really – why should we be shoving our dogs into a “sit” position?). I love the look in their eyes when they “get it” – because they have figured out what I want and the click is coming – and, of course, whatever wonderful thing that follows the click is coming too!

There are also no rules about continuing to clicker train. Your dog actually gets smarter when started off with clicker training, since she exercises her brain in the process. Brains, like all muscles, grow stronger with exercise. That means that if you decide later to teach your dog something using another method, she’ll catch on at least as quickly as she would have without the clicker experience – and probably faster, because she will have learned to learn.

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