Dog Training: Your Mouth Can be a Verbal Clicker
Clicker training is a fabulous method of encouraging dog behavior. Clicker training has taught my dogs to do all kinds of tricks!
It’s a great way to exercise the body and the brain. In fact, when my eleven-year-old golden retriever started lying around, I carted her to clicker class for some mental stimulation. The sparkle in her eyes returned (no doubt from all those brain cells firing), which proved to me that like human beings, getting old doesn’t have to mean giving up.
The method behind the clicker madness is to mark wanted behavior with a click and then a treat. The dog then understands that when it does a certain behavior, it will hear a certain sound and receive a certain treat. Wonderful!
What is not so wonderful is the handler’s timing, which has to be precise! But when that timing is right, something beautiful occurs.
With clicker training, a desired behavior is limited only by the handler’s imagination, which seemed to be absent from me at a recent training class.
I was teaching my puppy to heel. This was her third basic puppy class, so she knew all her stuff. And she knew that she knew it, so she began to slack off. Okay, I did too. In fact, I was practically in a stupor.
“You missed it,” said my trainer. “She was heeling and looked right at you and you didn’t say a thing! You didn’t mark the behavior!”
“Mark it?” I thought.
“The next time you’re heeling,”said the trainer, “as soon as she looks you in the eye, say, ‘Yes!’ It will mark the behavior.”
Her brisk “Yes!” startled me, thankfully breaking my stupor.
“Oh I get it,” I said. “You want me to be a clicker–a verbal clicker!”
“I suppose so,” said the trainer.
To my amazement, it worked. The puppy and I connected. It was fantastic!
I guess it’s true that everything you really need you already have. To that, I say, “Yes!”
Bonnie Sweebe is a dog lover, dog owner, dog advocate, and rescue and service dog volunteer. She is also the owner of WelcomePup.com, an online dog gift delivery company.