Trying New Behaviors in Hopes of Being Right


smileDogs that are trained with positive reinforcement have a different way of thinking than dogs trained using correction based methods. This became very apparent to me when we trained Loker to “wave” his paw at us when we waved at him. Mainly, it was that dogs trained with positive reinforcement offer or try different behaviors in hope of being right and get rewarded. Dogs trained with punishment are too hesitant of doing something wrong to try new behaviors.

When I used to correct Loker a lot he would resort to slinking around the house, watch me with a careful eye, and stayed out of my way (“calm and submissive” according to one popular TV “dog psychologist”). It was very hard to get him to do things because he always thought he was in trouble when I talked to him! Yes, he is more sensitive than any other dog I know, but it is reasonable to assume many dogs respond in this way to some extent.

These days I have a totally different dog. He watches me expectantly, waiting for me to acknowledge him because we have a great relationship. He seeks my attention instead of avoiding me. His tail is up and curled instead of tucked. And we even get to cuddle on the couch together.

Clicker Training is a Game

Clicker training your dog is one of the best things you can do with them. It creates such a clear line of communication between you and the dog. Every time I teach a new client how to clicker train their dog, I get the same “Wow! She/he got that so fast!” There’s just something about the click sound that really motivates a dog. You also boost their confidence while creating behaviors you want from them. It is a game that a dog can succeed at.

Like any game though, it is stressful and there is pressure to win (be right). There is thinking and learning involved and it demands a lot from the dog. Short training sessions divided by breaks are a must and setting the dog up to be right by either lowering criteria or distractions is important to prevent frustration building up too much.

Clicker training teaches dogs to offer behaviors so that they can hopefully do something you like and get rewarded for it. It’s rewarding for both dog and owner because everyone has fun.