This morning I woke up and had bloggers block; it happens. So I dragged my butt out of bed and hit the gym. On the drive home from the gym I found my inspiration; but since then I took Jessie down to the harbor and found more inspiration so one won over the other. Tomorrows blog will be my early morning inspiration and todays is from the harbor. When we were walking along the path; Jessie was madly going about her business of chasing and trying to kill squirrels while many dogs went by. She doesn't care about other dogs when there are squirrels to kill.
One young rhodesian ridgeback went by with his guardian who was in "serious" mode. Didn't look like they were there for fun. I'd give the pup about 6 months; very cute and very attentive. So as they walked by Jessie who was very involved with her hunting the pup glanced our way; "LEAVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!" was delivered very seriously. The dog had only glanced at us; never made a motion our way at all, okay so whatever. What caught my attention was the use of her clicker, when the dog continued to walk by (like he had a choice) she clicked and kept moving. And you can bet I was watching ever since I heard the bellowed "LEAVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
Watching..............nope, no treat, no praise came, only a click and then nothing. Further on I heard the samething again and nothing came after the click. There was also no reaction from the dog to the click; a telltale sign that it is not being used correctly. If I get my clicker out there is mass craziness; especially from my Jack Russell who I have used the clicker on much more than the poodles. Okay, for those of you who use a clicker or are contemplating clicker use there are a few strict rules and if you don't follow them then there is no point in using a clicker.
First, the clicker is a sound that bridges a behavior with a reward. There must be a clear association that hearing the clicker sound means you have done something correctly and earned a reward. If you do not reward the dog then it is simply a sound. And if you think your dog will work for the sound of a click; try that with your hubby or kids.................ya nothing. The clicker is used to mark behaviors that you like; then you must reward your dog for the behavior.
It is very useful for teaching new behaviors; that is if the dog knows what a clicker is. I see people misusing clickers all the time. I'm not sure if some very uneducated trainers are teaching people or not teaching people about them correctly or they have heard something about these clicker things and thought they'd give it a whirl. Timing is of the utmost importance when using clicker training. And once a behavior is learned and generalized you can then remove the clicker.
I don't use clickers often in my everyday life and tend to use words as markers. If your dog only understands clicker language and you don't have your clicker on you then you cannot mark a behavior you really like. Plus my hands are far too full as it is so having one less thing to drag around is good. The "clicker" training idea is a good one; it is positive and dogs tend to love learning with it. Although there have been a few who are afraid of the clicker; but that's another blog.
If you are interested in using a clicker or already using it and think you might now be using it correctly; do some research. There are a ton of good books out there on the subject. Don't shoot the dog is one by Karen Pryor.