Power in the clicker

Having had Penelope at our house for five days she got a great deal of concentrated learning in.  My daughter and I did a lot of discussing canine education and how dogs learn differently.  I sometimes use a clicker but not always.  I did use a clicker for much of Jessie's (my Jack Russell) training when she was younger.  She was very food motivated and the clicker helped her to focus.  Once she learned what the clicker meant it held great power.  She would offer anything and learned very quickly that she was to offer new behaviors.  This is something that not all dogs do, but she offered anything and everything to get a click.  Luke does not offer new behaviors, not that he isn't insanely intelligent but that he just doesn't do that sort of thing.

So being that Penelope is very much like Jessie was I knew the clicker would be for her.   My daughter and I went into the kitchen to prime Penny (Penelope) on the clicker.  This means teaching her what the clicker means and that is food.  She is so much like my little Jessie that it is sort of strange.  As I clicked and treat over and over she seemed to be getting it.  The rest of the family was in the living room when we were priming and after several clicks they started yelling at me.  I stopped and went to see what was up.  Elsa was standing on a box.  They said she had be getting off and on as I clicked in the kitchen.

Elsa is clicker trained and she loves it.  She has learned to offer new behaviors and with all the Christmas morning gifts lying around, she chose a random box on the floor to use.  Everyone was amazed by her behavior, not me.  But I was a little "oops."  It was Elsa's clicker and I hadn't thought about that.  So I gave her a bunch of treats as she stood steadfast on her box.  Then needing to move back to Penelope in the kitchen I took her box away and put it out of reach.  Then the whole family got into the whole "clicker" discussion, having been thoroughly impressed by it's power.

Learning the philosophy around the power of the clicker is important.  Educating yourself on how the clicker works and when to click is essential.  I see so many people using the click to lure or bribe a behavior from the dog which is all wrong.  It is a marker, intended to mark a correct behavior and let the dog know that a reward will soon follow.  When done properly it is a wonderful training tool.  The only negative about them is that they are something else to hold while working.  This is why I only teach clicker training to a very few; most average dog owners are interested only until they try using it.  Holding treats, a leash and a clicker has often turned my clients completely off using it so we move onto training without it.

But if you intend to use the clicker, do yourself a favor and read Clicker Training by Karen Pryor.    Now that Miss Penelope has gone home I will be pulling out the clicker for Elsa.  I have wanted to teach her to put her paw on my foot for several months, now I have the time so we will be on it today.  I think this will be a very useful behavior when I want her close by.  No doubt she will pick it up in a matter of moments, she certainly has the drive to learn.