Gloria White is a dog trainer who gave me permission to use this email here on the site. It’s a great example of the power of the clicker!
Just read your note about the clicker and how to transition to another cue. In the classes that I teach, the students are given the option of using the clicker or using the word “yes” – to be perfectly honest, I often use both of these cues together. What I have found is that I improve my timing as I have to say “yes” as quickly as I click. Then, when I don’t have the clicker handy, I always have the “yes” with me and my dogs know exactly what it means.
What I have found, over a period of the last couple of years is that the students who were consistent about using the clicker had more success that those who started out with the word “yes”. Eventually, most of these students came to realize that others in the class were progressing more quickly with the clicker so they decided to use it as well.
The clicker can be “cumbersome” for some students who find it difficult to coordinate the leash, the treats, etc; however, once they get the hang of it, they are very excited about the outcomes.
I call it the “power of the clicker” since it makes no difference who uses it, it always sounds the same – whether it is Mom, Dad, or one of the kids. In one of my family pet classes years ago there was a 4 year old with a very exuberant Lab puppy. This pup was a walloping 45 pounds and getting bigger and stronger by the minute. The little guy was becoming fearful of the pup as it jumped on him in excitement and could knock him over very easily. In one session, we resolved the problem with the clicker. I taught Josh (the 4 year old) to fold his arms and turn away as the Lab came toward him – for this first time, I had him standing near a wall that he could use for support. The Lab came near, and Josh turned his back and braced himself on the wall. The Lab jumped but got no attention for doing so. Once the Lab had “4 on the floor” I clicked and Josh gave pup a treat. We repeated this 4 times and each time there was improvement. Finally, we were able to move Josh away from the wall and he was able to stand his ground and didn’t have to turn around at all. The Lab would come near and now decided to sit and wait for the click and treat. Josh went home that week and taught all of his friends this method and it worked!
In regard to the Clicker Expo – if one has the opportunity to go, this is a wonderful opportunity to hear from the very best trainers in the country. I attended an APDT Convention in Denver a few years ago that lasted for a week. To be in the presence of Ian Dunbar, Suzanne Clothier, Patricia McConnell, etc. was an experience that I will never forget. I learned so much about dogs and how to work with them. I didn’t take a dog with me but there were many demonstrations with shelter dogs that were amazing to watch.
Click (sorry, couldn’t resist) on the image to see a best-selling clicker: