. Click goes the Tentie, Click, Click, Click
What started your interest in Clicker Training?
At the time I was involved in competitive
obedience and started seeing some
dogs that were having an absolute blast
when training or trialling and often were
'asking' to do more work. It was obvious
in the trial ring that there were two very
distinct types of dogs competing. Those
that were happy, confident and fun loving
and those that just went through the
motions. Don't get me wrong, a lot of
those dogs going through the motions
were well trained and often at the top of
the field but they were not happy.
On leaving the trial ring they immediately
relaxed and their posture completely changed. I soon learnt that these 'unhappy' looking dogs were trained using typical adverse methods. However those bright, happy, enthusiastic dogs never changed their attitudes inside the ring or out and neither did their handlers. These were the dogs that were trained by Clicker Training and I wanted that kind of relationship with my dogs.
What are the basic principles of Clicker Training?
Clicker Training has a very sound basis in science and uses positive reinforcement only. It also does not need to involve a clicker. The clicker is merely a 'bridge' or communication tool. Basically, all those zoo animal you see being trained to offer paws, show teeth, walk onto a set of scales etc; things that enable stress free husbandry of the animal is exactly the same training method as Clicker Training. Those dolphin and whale shows that have been around for 30 or more years are animals that are trained using the exact same concept as Clicker Training. It's just the 'bridge' (clicker) that varies. The principles are the same. If the animal learns that it can get what it wants (a reward) by doing a certain action then that action or behaviour will be repeated.
How long have you been using Clicker Training?
That's hard to say but I first looked into it about 20 years ago and I've been learning ever since. That's the great thing about this training method. There is always something new to learn. Each dog will present you with different challenges and you need to be prepared to watch, listen and learn because Clicker Training is a 'partnership'. It is never one sided like traditional training methods. So, even though you managed to teach one dog to walk backwards one way, you may need to adapt your method to teach your next dog to achieve the same thing.
What age did you start training Super Spark?
The moment he came out of his crate a the airport, when I picked him up at 10 weeks old. That would have been the first time he heard the 'clicker'. It wasn't meant to teach him anything at that point, merely to understand the 'click' meant a reward was coming. All the pups I breed become familiar with the concept 'click means rewards' from the time their ears open and we start training from 5 or 6 weeks of age. That's the thing with Clicker Training. It's never too early to start.
What are the benefits of Clicker Training for a dog in general and in the show ring?
A happy, confident, enthusiastic dog is what you need in the
show ring and correctly applied that is what you get with a
clicker trained dog. I can also trust my dogs. If I ever drop
their lead they will continue to gait or stack without a lead the
same as if I was holding it.
Tell us a bit about Super Spark's career success.
Sparks was a stand out from the first time he hit the ring.
It was very obvious that he was happy in the ring or simply
just being with me. Some of my biggest highlights actually
have nothing to do with his success in the show ring although
he has been exceedingly successful having started with his
1st BISS at the TTCSA at just 9 months of age and now
having easily gained his Grand Championship with many
group and BISS wins, far too many to list.
My highlights are the times I been incredibly blown away by
this boy. Many people would not realise that Sparks is a
highly anxious dog but the relationship we have enables him
to cope well in stressful situations. The Royal shows are proud
moments for me as I often have Sparks performing tricks or
playing games. Even when there are hundreds of people streaming past he is able to focus on me and what I ask of him which means he is often playing and being a clown while other dogs are held on tight leads or crated.
Another proud moment was when in a group lineup I had accidentally dropped his lead and someone behind us made loud noise that caused him to take fright. He leapt away from me, took two steps and stopped dead and looked back to me. Others were about to race in to grab him and I just called him back to me and free stacked him all while his lead was still on the ground. Our relationship meant his trust in me allowed him to overcome his fear and do as I asked. That is what success means; its not his titles or awards.
What advice would you give someone wanting more information about Clicker Training?
A good starting point is Karen Pryor's website clickertraining.com
Positive Training for Show Dogs: Building a Relationship for Success by Vicki Ronchette is a must. But a book that really changed it all for me was
When Pigs Fly! Training Success with Impossible Dogs by Jane Killion.
This book really helped me to understand that Terriers are hard wired differently and the way they work is very different, so your techniques need to be different too.
Article written by Leanne Bennett.
After a busy day in the show ring Super Sparks enjoys a treat