Clicking With Canines

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Training Philosophy, Methods, and Equipment

Training Philosophy

RESPECT.  This one word best describes my training philosophy.  I always give the utmost respect to each and every dog I meet, whether in a training setting or otherwise.  This includes approaching the dog appropriately and not being offended if a dog isn't friendly, or doesn't enjoy being petted.  It means not tugging on the dog's leash and collar when walking or to get the dog's attention.  It means not nagging or scolding a dog for behavior it either can't help itself from doing, is normal behavior for the dog, or hasn't been taught a more acceptable behavior.  Respect means giving your dog the freedom to make mistakes without fear of retribution, rewarding him in a way he understands when he succeeds, and most importantly managing the dog's environment so that his potential for success is high. 
Respect also means recognizing that every dog does whatever it does for a reason.  There is no such thing as a "stubborn" dog!  They always have a very good reason for doing what they do or don't do, though it may not be obvious to us.  Respect is also giving a dog the SPACE it needs to be comfortable when experiencing something new and different (including meeting people) as well as TIME (also known as PATIENCE) to accept new and sometimes strange or fearful things, including learning new behaviors and skills.  Every dog, over time, will return the respect it receives.
Finally, I want all the dogs I train, or teach others to train, to do what is asked of them, not because they HAVE to, but because they WANT to.  When training is conducted from this perspective your dog will return your respect in the form of complete devotion for a lifetime.  I will always do whatever it takes to determine a way for the dog to CHOOSE the correct response and make it rewarding.  This is, truly, "training from the dog's point of view."  The result is a happy, confident, and well-mannered dog with a proud owner at the other end of the leash.

Training Method

Have you ever looked into your dog’s eyes and thought:  “Just a few more brain cells and maybe we could talk to each other?”  Many of us, I am certain, have wished for a way to better communicate with our dogs.  I like to think of dog training as dog “learning.”  Learning requires a two-way communication between student (the dog) and teacher (you).  Learning is easiest when there is good conversation between teacher and student.  The best teachers are usually the best communicators:  they present information in a concise, interesting, and easily understood manner.  Students often form a bond with their best teachers and  remember them for a lifetime.  The same is possible for our dogs.

Training dogs should be no less of a learning experience for them.  Each lesson should enhance the bond between dog and owner and never diminish it.  Dog training, conducted properly, should be the foundation for a lifetime bond between dog and owner.  All that’s needed is a better way to communicate.Sadly, many dogs owners go through their entire lives owning dogs and never experience the extraordinary abilities these wonderful animals have to learn.  Many people treat their dogs as poor dumb animals that have to be shown how to "sit" or lay "down." They perceive their dogs as totally dependent on humans to get through life.  It just isn't so!  Dogs know how to sit and dogs know how to lay down.  We just want them to do when we ask them to using OUR language and not theirs.  This is a very high bar for our dogs.  Nonetheless, dogs are extraordinarily capable of making decisions, solving problems, and easily hurdling the bars we set for them if we just give them the opportunity. 

Clicker training gives them that opportunity.
This is why I believe clicker training is the training method of choice.  It puts the responsibility for TEACHING on the human, but in a manner that dogs, and all animals, can understand.  The clicker actually bridges that language barrier between us and all other animals.  For instance, the dog has to figure out that a "sit" will result in a click (followed by a small treat) without ANY help from the human partner.  Every dog can and will!  Just as we understand a problem much better when we figure it out versus someone telling us the answer, dogs also fully understand behaviors when THEY figure out how to do it on their own AND they retain the behaviors for much longer periods of time.  It is always exhilerating, and sometimes stunning, to watch dogs as they determine what behavior makes the "click" happen.

Training Equipment

The equipment needed for clicker training is simple:  a clicker, treats, and a bag or pocket to hold them in.  THAT'S IT!  You do not need a leash, or even a collar on your dog to clicker train.  In clicker training, collars and leashes are SAFETY devices and NOT training devices.  Of course, if you don't have a safe enclosed area to train, you will need a collar and leash to keep your dog from wandering off, or if in a group class, going over to check out the dog next to him.  A simple FLAT BUCKLE collar and a six foot leash is sufficient. 

Steve Benjamin, KPA CTP
Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner
Karen Pryor Academy Faculty Member
P.O. Box 5715
Endicott, New York 13763