If you’ve read any of the blog posts on this site, you’ll have heard me talk about clicker training. There is a multitude of websites about clicker training – as usual, some good, some bad. If you want to know more about how it originated, why it works and how to do it, feel free to google to your heart’s content.
I’m not going to go into the niceties of clicker training here, mainly because I don’t think you can learn it properly by reading about it. You really have to be taught how to do it in a practical session. It’s a bit like trying to learn to drive by reading your car’s manual – the manual will tell you how to make your car go forward, backwards, whatever, but you really need an instructor to show you how to control your car with confidence and grace.
What I am going to do is talk about why we train our dogs, and of course there are many reasons.
Reason #1: so your dog is always under control
Absolutely and without doubt the most important reason. An out of control dog is a danger to you, your family, the general public and, of course, himself.
Even if you have a lovely little softie of a dog who would never hurt a fly, imagine the scenario if you had your dog loose in a country field and a tractor appeared out of nowhere. Could you guarantee that he will come running when you call him? Or if he’s on the other side of the tractor, can you stop him in his tracks until the tractor has safely passed by?
And what about walking nicely on the lead? This is an absolute must if you have an Irish Wolfhound, but does it matter if you have a dog the size of Specs? Oh yes indeed – she might not be able to pull me over, but every time she pulls on that lead she’s damaging her windpipe and her spine, and that’s not good for little Specs.
Reason #2: fun
Yes, fun, a no-brainer to dog trainers and most dog lovers, but if you’ve never tried it you really should.
Teach the recall and the stop on command, toss in some lead walking, then just leave the rule book behind. I have those table lamps that you switch on by touching them, but did you know that a dog’s nose works just as well as a human hand? It’s such a fab thing to show off when you have visitors. And very handy if you really can’t be bothered to reach over to the light.
Then if you fancy a go at doggy dancing you can teach the spins and the commando crawls, and even if you never actually get to the point of dancing you’ll be in stitches as your dog prances around in front of you.
Or what about agility? It’s excellent exercise for dogs and their people, and so much more rewarding than half an hour on a treadmill.
Just let your imagination run riot and enjoy!
Reason #3: improving your bond with your dog
If you train your dog to do anything – competition obedience, switching the light on, finding your car keys – even if you don’t reach all the goals you set out for, the one guaranteed result you will get is that you will turn your dog from a pet into a partner. The more training you do, the deeper your bond will grow, until it seems as though the dog can almost read your mind.
And the more training you do, the easier it is to train your dog. So get him used to the clicker, reward the good behaviour, ignore the bad (no punishment please – it’s pointless at best and counter productive at worst), and you’ll be amazed at how quickly he picks up the next trick. And the next. And the next.