The click click language…
Quite a while ago, when I was just getting to know clicker work, I read an article and I regret, I have no idea who wrote it but I remember the author was writing about how she had difficulty to get her horse to put his foot into a bucket of some sort of medical solution. He just would not budge. She tried everything to get him to lift his foot up and put it in the bucket, and then she remembered, but wait a minute, my horse is clicker conditioned. She got her clicker out, and started to click her horse for lifting his front feet, then clicked him only for one specific foot, until she got him to put his foot in the bucket and keep it there. Now when an animal is truly clicker conditioned, a session like this rarely takes longer than half an hour. So within no time at all, and without any stress or negative associations, she got her horse to put his foot in the bucket, and for the horse it was a game. That is where I decided, I need to learn the clicker language because this just seems like the best communication tool in the world whilst working with dogs.
All dogs can learn to understand the clicker, but even if they are super conditioned there are a lot of things that need to be kept in mind whilst working with the clicker, the motivation of the animal, (greatly depends on the handler), the value of the reward, etc. All the dogs at Dogtown are clicker conditioned, but you will see that there are a couple of stars who shine a bit brighter than the others when it comes to clicker work. Some of the dogs can learn a whole new behaviour in just one session, whereas others you have to work on one tiny increment per session.
Getting back to the horse story, here at Dogtown we have a dog, just like that horse. And his name is Lennox. Lennox was taught the click click language as soon as he arrived at Dogtown, and with him being very suspicious of all people it was the best language to use with him, because I could keep my distance from him, where he felt safe, but I could still train him. And these days, he learns a whole behaviour in one session, one session being 15 minutes to 30 minutes long – because that is how long he is willing to work.
Clicker training, when done right, is the best tool in your toolbox when you are working with fearful dogs (as long as they are not afraid of the clicker’s sound), reactive dogs, touch sensitive dogs and even aggressive dogs. You can keep a safe distance from an aggressive dog, and still do training and behaviour modification.
It’s pretty easy to pick up a clicker and click click click away, however, it’s pretty easy to completely mess up your training when you do not know the rules and when you have not practised this technical skill. Tellington Touch’s Clicker training course with Eugenie Chopin is crazy fun and she is a brilliant teacher. All of us from Dogtown will vouch for that.
Do yourself and your dog a big favour and go learn this language. The things animals, including wild animals can be taught with a clicker are unbelievable. A bonus is that it’s completely stress free.
For more information please visit www.touch.co.za
By Tersha, Trainer