Charlotte Peltz Living with Your Dog "Click & Treat" brought to you by Joy Beckner Artist/ Bronze Sculptor

Living with Your Dog

Click & Treat

By Charlotte Peltz

Clicker training is great fun and helps with many of the problems we encounter when trying to make things really clear to our canine buddies. Clickers are nothing more than a revision of that little toy from the childhood of my generation -- but we called it a "cricket". If memory serves, they sometimes came in CrackerJack boxes. My! Doesn't that take us back in time!!

One of the major problems inexperienced handlers have is treating or praising the wrong behavior and then not understanding why the dog "doesn't get it". Example: The dog has done a perfectly lovely sit on command, and the owner reaches down to give a treat and a pat just as the dog stands up. The dog received a treat for standing -- not for sitting. Next time the owner says, "Sit," the dog does and immediately stands. Owners interpretation of this event runs from "Stupid dog!" to "See, he knows what I want and is being ornery," to often giving sharp corrections for disobedience when the dog has done exactly what the owner trained him to do!

With clicker training the click sound is made at the precise moment the dog performs the desired behavior, and the dog has been conditioned to understand that a treat will follow. The treat may follow immediately or maybe not for several seconds, but the dog knows it is coming and how it was earned.

This is the training system used for training sea mammals. After all -- one cannot give a killer whale a leash correction, nor can one be at the place of action just as it happens. Usually a whistle is used for these animals since that sound will travel a lot farther than the "click," but the principle is the same.

As the lessons progress, the click may be delayed until the dog has performed several exercises in a row or maybe there will only be a click if the exercise has been performed more precisely or faster. This teaches the dogs to work harder and to problem solve -- "Hmmm, I did the sit and didn't get a treat. Maybe I have to sit closer to her." And sure enough, the closer sit is what causes the click sound and gets the treat.

This is so much more humane and effective than giving corrections with a collar. The dog may get the picture as a result of leash corrections, but they aren't as happy about life and don't learn much about figuring things out for themselves.

Another part of the clicker-training picture is keeping things simpler for the dog. Often a handler goes on and on with paragraphs of discussion, and the dog totally loses the theme of the session by the time the handler gets back to the exercise. While it is fun to also get the dogs excited by saying -- "Wow! What a super dog you are! That was perfect. Let's do it again just like that. Goooooood boy!" -- we certainly can cause them to lose the point. So -- cut to the chase. Click! and treat!

Well raised and properly trained and socialized pups rarely need a "home in the country" along about eight months of age.

"One can measure the size and moral progress of a nation to how she treats her animals." Mahatma Gandhi.

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