Pawsibilities NY

Author: Erica Lieberman

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New Baby, “Bad” Dog & Behavior Modification

As a new mother, and a life-long dog parent I am finally experiencing and understanding the true demands of being a multi-species mother!  As a trainer I have helped many clients prepare for their coming baby, but in going through this myself, I have adjusted my expectations, and what I will be teaching from now on…

To read more please click here.

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How Patience Can Help Train Your Dog!

I always say that in the training game, you want to “tie” with your dog; meaning if you ask your dog to sit once, you should get one sit. If you ask three times and your dog doesn’t sit, perhaps it is time to take a step back and reevaluate the training, or even, just give your dog a little more time to respond….

To read more please click here.

Undercover at Your Local Dog Walking Company

 The true story of one dog trainer’s experience while working as the manager for a local dog walking service.  

Towards the end of 2015 I began managing a dog walking company; both to help this company, as well as to fill up my days, leaving evenings and weekends open to private lesson clients.  The company had been in a business for just over one year when I was brought on as their New York City manager.  It took this company three weeks to decide to hire me; the hiring process seemed very thorough.  After I was invited to join the team, I still had to wait over two weeks to begin, all of which seemed normal to me.  I only ended up working for this company for 6 weeks, after which I got an email telling me they could no longer afford to pay me, and that they would no longer need my services.  Needless to say this was extremely unprofessional, and not at all like the experiences I have had while working for any number of other reputable pet services companies in New York.  I had no way to confront this complete lack of professionalism, so I am writing this blog to caution dog owners out there!

Things I knew about this company BEFORE I started working for them:

On Yelp this company has 10 reviews and a 4.5 star rating, with all 5 star ratings except one 2 star.  There were 10 reviews that were not suggested, but those were all 5 star good reviews, and 2 removed, one 5 star, one 2 star, so in all the reviews there were only 2 negative reviews.

On Thumbtack they have 10, 5-star reviews.

This company received an A on Angie’s List with 5 reviews.

…You can see I did my research.

This company offers GPS tracked dog walks, and if you visit their site, it explains a very extensive hiring process for their dog walkers.  The process described on their website states that each walker goes through a face to face interview as well as a background check.

They were offering me a very reasonable Salary.

Their pricing was consistent with other local services.

Things I learned about this company DURING the hiring process:

The company is owned by three people, none of whom reside in, or anywhere near New York State, let alone New York City.

…A major red flag.

Things I found out about this company AFTER I started working for them:

Their “Extensive” Hiring Process:

The first step is to fill out a questionnaire-style application, which did request a photo, a resume and two references.

Next was a short video interview; there were 10 preset questions given to the applicant and they had one minute to record each answer.  I suppose this is what they meant by “face-to-face” interview because at no time did any of the three owners, who were all out of state, or even myself, meet with or interview any dog walker we hired.  I don’t remember hiring too many while I worked for them as I had very high standards for who I would hire.  

As for the references, a simple text message from any two references simply stating the person was good, was all it took for this company to begin to bring them on board.

There were never any background checks conducted on any dog walker who was hired in the entire 6 weeks I worked for this company.  There were walkers hired by some of the owners during this time.  

The person’s ACTUAL experience with dogs was of very little importance.

If the company received an inquiry for a dog walker in a certain area where they do not have a walker who can take the client, they go through the applications to specifically hire a person who will take this client, as the most important factor in the hiring process. Their experience really had very little to do with their being hired.

Pawsibilities_dogwalkingblogpic2

Their “Training” process:

So by now you are probably wondering what sort of process the person goes through before they come into your home and take your dog….

The newly hired person is required to complete two online courses.  The first is to help them to understand how to use the GPS tracking app on their phone while on walks, and the lesson actually instructs the walker to report that the dog has gone #1 and #2 (no matter what).….It might have been a typo, but I did bring it to the owners’ attention and it was not changed….

The second online course is about dog behavior, to some extent. It was definitely copied off of a Cesar Milan website.  It instructs your dog walker to physically correct your dog if he or she barks while on the walk.  There are many other horrifying things in this very brief lesson plan, that takes about 10 minutes to read through slowly, but there is not any proof the walker actually took this course, it is very easy to just click through it and make it look like you read it.

As a new client you would have the right to meet with your dog walker, but please keep in mind, you are still meeting him or her before any other company employee has.  You are inviting this person into your home, who has perhaps been hired because he or she lives across the street from you, and applied at just the right time.  Very little else about this person remains important to the company as long as they can pair you with a walker and start getting paid!

And Finally The Incidents:

Within the first few days of starting with the company there was an incident with a dog walker who had been with the company before I started.  He went for a meet and greet with a rescue puppy who was brand new to the city, and quite fearful.  When the walker put the leash on the dog’s collar he didn’t attach it to the metal loop, and instead hooked it around the cloth of the collar itself.  The owner was concerned and corrected him, he emailed me to let me know and I told him that I would go over proper leash and harness skills with the walker, but the owners of the company never approved this meeting.  The next day the owner purchased a harness for the dog, and the walker did not use it properly.  The dog got out of the harness and was loose, luckily only in the hallway of the building, but it could have been far worse.

The next incident occurred about a week later.  A walker wrote in that while she was walking one of the dogs, he lunged at a lady and made contact with her clothes, possibly tearing her pant leg.  She was leaving the building where the dog lived and was quite upset.  The walker had no idea how to hold the dog back or handle the situation, and called in hysterical about being yelled at, meanwhile she did not address her handling, or should I say mishandling of the dog, and situation in general.  Nothing was further required of her, in fact I asked some questions to find out more about the situation, and I was chastised for being too hard on the dog walker.  I explained that all I was trying to do was understand if this situation might happen again and if it might, then we need to figure out a way to be sure the dog, the walker, and the public are all kept safe.  I was told to be nicer to the walkers because we don’t want to lose her.

Finally the last incident… Right before Christmas I see an email come in after business hours that one of the dogs bit a child while out for a walk with one of our walkers.  Again due to the walker’s lack of common sense, dog experience and professionalism, as she describes it, she basically just hurried away from the father who was helping his child, and disappeared around the corner, she only let us know because she was very proud of herself for not telling the owner anything happened at all!  She said over and over that we shouldn’t worry at all because she didn’t let the dog’s owner know.  I was, of course horrified, as I am not even certain this company double checks that their client’s dogs are vaccinated.  Also it is important that an owner know information like this, it definitely should not be kept a secret.  These things can happen even with the best of dog walkers, but the owner needs to know!

So What Did I Do About All of This?

During this six weeks, I constantly tried to work with the three owners to improve their hiring process as well as change their training process entirely.

I urged them to have an on-site training portion before any walker was released to walk any client’s dog.  I explained how irresponsible it was that their walkers did not go through any formal training.  I re-worked their hiring application, to be more thorough, and I did this on my own time.

I re-wrote the entire training course, explaining why Cesar Milan’s techniques are not only non-scientific, but also there was a lot of questionable advise, including teaching the walkers to poke the dogs when they misbehave.  I explained that this is very unsafe, and a good way to get their dog walkers bitten!  I did all of this on my own time.

Their hiring requirements had been a person commit to 2 months and to give 1 week notice.  I explained that every other pet company I have ever worked for or with requires at least six months as turn over is very hard for animals, as well as at least 2 weeks notice, some even 1 month’s notice, as again, training a new a person to handle animals is sensitive when handled properly.  I also explained the walkers should be bonded at the very least, and that the company could have the walkers pay for their own bonding, only to receive a bonus in the amount of the bonding once they have stayed for 6 months.  None of this was implemented and still has not been.

I asked if it would be ok for me to just show up to shadow walkers throughout their day to be sure they are where they say they are, this request was never responded to.

I insisted all owners be made aware of all incidents as they were reported to us, most especially those where people were bitten.

I offered my dog training experience to ensure they have a thorough training process for their walkers, as well as offering more classes so dog walkers could advance their status and take on more difficult dogs.  Believe it or not, right when I left, this company was beginning to have a separate section for more difficult dogs, and the client was to pay more for a “more experienced” walker, but please keep in mind, there is NO determination making these walkers any more experienced.  Even if they work for this company for a long time, they receive no training, so if they were doing something incorrectly on day 1, they likely are still doing it!  The owners have never met these walkers, have never offered to further their training, but will still up what you pay so you think you are getting a more experienced dog walker.

…And What About those Reviews?

After I received an email telling me they could no longer pay me, I went and re-checked some of those reviews.  With the exception of any negative review and maybe 2 others on yelp, they were all written by the dog walkers who work for the company, they are all completely fabricated, each and every review is one either a current or former employee of the company.

So What does all of this Mean?

I am saddened and scared for the dogs who will continue to be walked by this company.  I was appalled by so many things that were wrong with their process and complete lack of concern for the safety of their client’s dogs, and even homes.  But I wanted to stay because I felt like they were open to changing.  They did try to take some of my suggestions, but again they were far away and working other jobs on the side.  I really would have liked to stay to have the opportunity to help improve their services, both for the personal success, as well as for the safety of the dogs!  I am disappointed I did not get the chance.

Please be careful!  At this point, there are many dog walking companies throughout the country that are popping up and follow this, sort of match-making structure.  The problem is, instead of grabbing a coffee with someone who you aren’t attracted to, this person is matched with you and goes into your home, while you are not there, and takes your dog out.  The fact is, this is not the kind of thing that can be left to a simple algorithm.

You shouldn’t only interview your dog walker, you should interview your dog walking company.  Find out about where they are, and how often they meet with their walkers.  Ask questions like their employment requirements, and employee retainability.

Watch out for catchy things that don’t really mean much!  GPS tracking is nice, but it isn’t worth as much as a good dog walker, and besides if it is very important to you, you can always download an app with your own dog walker for this.  Be ware of FAQs sections that claim to say everything you want to hear, this is your dog, speak to someone and have them tell you over the phone, if not in person about their employees and services.  If dog walkers are shown on their website, then inquire to be sure those walkers actually still work for the company and that this section is updated.  This shows they know their walkers will be around long enough for this to be worth while.  If they have a section of walkers filled with employees who no longer work for them, this is a red flag.

Finally use common sense, and your gut feeling, not to mention a good referral!  If a dog walking company doesn’t even have a managerial employee in the same state as their dog walkers, this might mean they have other questionable business practices, don’t let your dog be a victim of their unprofessionalism and lack of care!  Ask for proof of things such as bonding and insurance, remember this person will possibly have keys, and definitely have access to your home.  In my opinion, the best way to hire a dog walker is through the referral of a trusted friend or family member.  If you know someone who has had a positive experience with a dog walker, over a prolonged period of time, this is truly the best way to choose!  If you are really uncertain, ask your vet r even your dog trainer to help you find an appropriate dog walker.  As a trainer I am always happy to help my clients find the best dog walker for their needs.  Obedience Training

In closing, I’m want to say that I am sad that I was not able elicit the necessary and positive change this company needs, but I am also glad to have further understanding of this industry that I can offer to help my clients make the best choices.  As a dog trainer I have worked with day care companies, dog walking companies, therapy dog groups, shelters and training groups.  I feel that by doing so I an offer my clients the best advice in choosing the right care for their pet.     As a positive dog trainer there is very little that saddens me more than a dog being punished unnecessarily or harshly, but one thing that does upset me more than this is when a dog is harmed, or even killed, due to the negligence of an unprofessional, and inexperienced pet care company.  I wish I could have done more for this company, but at this point, I wish yo do more for the pet owners out their who might fall victim to their delinquency.

“Drop It,” Doesn’t Mean, “I’ll Take It!”

Teaching your dog to drop items from her mouth is a useful and necessary skill, especially for city dogs.  There are so many hazardous things on the street, it is easy for your dog to pick up something that is bad for her. You may have tried to teach your dog a cue that means she should drop items, but you might find that your dog is reluctant to respond when the item is very high value.  If this is the case it is possible that your dog thinks “drop it” means you are going to take something away from her.  It is important when training this cue to allow your dog to have a toy or treat that is safe for her to keep, because in the beginning you absolutely do not want to take the item away!  “Drop it” does not mean you are going to take the item away.  If your dog has resource guarding issues please visit one of my resource guarding blogs, but do not continue with this training method if you have seen resource guarding in your dog.

You want to think of your “drop it” practice as deposits in the bank; overtime you can trade your dog, or give your 10888702_778469304156_8121108130448426177_ndog a reward for letting something go from her mouth, this is a deposit in her bank.  This way if you find yourself without anything to trade and your dog grabs a chicken bone on the street, you have enough deposits to make this withdrawal! You should not believe that simply because you gave your dog an item this means you should just be able to take it away at any time; this is not true for any of your human relationships, and you probably like your dog better than a lot of humans!

“Drop it” as a cue for your dog should only mean she has to release what is in her mouth.  To properly train this cue, without poisoning it, you must practice with a toy or item your dog can safely continue to chew on.  To begin get several tasty treats and allow your dog to begin to chew on a treat or toy.

  1. Walk passed your dog and drop a treat near her toy as you pass, you don’t have to say anything. Repeat several times, until your dog looks up at you eagerly as you approach, or even follows you.
  2. Approach your dog and reach for the toy, but instead of taking it, leave a treat behind.  Repeat this several times until your dog is excited for you to approach.
  3. Say “drop it” to your dog, just once, then approach, trade her for a treat, and walk away, leaving her with the toy!  This is key; DO NOT TAKE THE TOY AWAY!
  4. Repeat step 3 until your dog will respond to the “drop it” cue before you present the treat, but still reward her at the end!  Remember these rewards are your bank deposits, so keep on saving up!
  5. Each day, or each new practice session, start from step 1, even if it takes you less time to progress.

Chirag Patel created a wonderful youtube video about teaching drop it, in this video you can see that when he begins to teach “drop it” he doesn’t even use an item, but instead gets the dog used to hearing the verbal cue “drop it” and opening his mouth, and being reinforced and rewarded by finding tasty treats on the ground.  This is a great visual aid in teaching this cue to your dog.

Chirag Patel’s “Drop It” Video

It is a good idea to practice twice a day for no more than 5 minutes each session; always ending on a good note but not pushing too far!  Even if you don’t complete all 5 steps in 5 minutes, quit where you are and try again later.  It is important not to push it.  If at any point you feel your dog is resource guarding the item, please stop this method and seek professional help.

The Five Rules of a Reliable Recall

The Five Rules of a Reliable RecallThere are five rules to teaching, and maintaining a reliable recall:

1. Choose the right word. “Come” may be the most popular word for this behavior, but it may not be the best choice. If your dog goes to day care, or spends time with dog walkers and other people who will say “come” to your dog too much, this can sometimes desensitize your dog to this word. If your dog hears this word all the time, but he is not required to come, then he won’t when you need him to. Another popular word is “here” because it is used far less, and for that I like this choice. A young dog trainer taught me a great option in one of our lessons, which was to use “treat” as your recall word because it has a positive association to your dog. You can teach your dog any word as long as you are consistent.

2. Never follow your recall with something your dog views as unpleasant. This is crucial to the success of your recall! I find it is even helpful to make a list of your dog’s least favorite things, this way you have a clear list of times to NOT use your recall word. Some examples include: leaving the dog park, going to the vet, being put into the crate, getting nails clipped and taking medications. Do not call your dog to come to you, and then cut his nails, or clean his ears; we want this to be a cue that your dog hears and thinks all the best things happen after this, not all his least favorite things. If you do call your dog to “come” and he comes over to you happily and then you leave the dog park, all his fun ends, it will only take a few times before he no longer comes over happily, so be careful not to un-train all your hard work!

3. Give your dog his favorite reward for coming when called. Since this cue is so important you want to reward your dog with his absolute favorite thing! For a lot of dogs you will want to try boiled chicken, bacon or cheese to earn a strong recall, but some dogs prefer a tennis ball, tug toy or even play with a real-fur dog toy, you can buy these from cleanrun.com. Know what your dog truly loves most, not what you want him to, and use it for this cue! Don’t stop rewarding your recall ever! You can eventually make rewards random, but don’t ever completely stop because it is just too important!

4. Don’t scold your dog when you do catch him! This might sound crazy, but just imagine you are in the park and it is time to go, you call your dog to come and instead he turns this opportunity into a huge game of tag! All of a sudden there are people in the park chasing your dog, trying to help you catch him, when eventually you do catch your dog, you might feel tempted to scold him and say “Bad Dog! Don’t you ever do that to me again, BAD DOG!” But unfortunately you have now followed your recall with something your dog definitely does not like; being scolded. Instead, don’t worry about all the people watching, and praise your dog like crazy, even shower him with treats and his favorite kinds of scratching or petting. This way the next time he considers engaging in a game of tag he will remember how much more rewarding it was to just come on over to you because you were fun and happy and had lots of good food to share!

5. Don’t skip the warm up! It is important to be sure your dog knows his recall word in each and every different kind of environment. Any time you are in a new place, start from the beginning and warm up your recall, this will make it much easier to get your dog to listen when you really need him to.

So now that you know the rules, learn how to train the perfect recall in my post Teaching Your Dog a Reliable Recall.

By in Training Philosophy 0

City Dog Living

City Dog LivingI was born and raised in New York City. I have had dogs here for my entire life. I also have parents who moved to Long Island with our dogs and I saw how different life was. City dog living is quite different from suburb living and it goes a lot further than just not having a yard.

House training is extremely different and difficult. Trying to get a puppy from his crate, out the door, down the hall, to the elevator and then outside can really cause a lot of extra accidents. I recommend carrying the puppy from when he comes out of his crate until he is outside on the sidewalk. If you have a large breed dog and the puppy grows too big to carry before you are finished house training, then I recommend being sure to have a strong “sit” cue and anytime you can’t be briskly walking, then have your pup sit. Most dogs will not go to the bathroom while sitting.

The whole addition of an elevator to a dog’s life is quite a lot. Without proper socialization, an elevator can be an extremely scary place for a dog. Strange people and other dogs are going to come into a very tight space and be enclosed, or even trapped that way, everyday, every time they have to go for a walk. It can be extremely scary for a lot of dogs; let’s face it some people are afraid of elevators.

City Dog LivingDon’t break leash laws! Even if you think your dog is great, when you are in an on-leash area, keep your dog on leash because it makes for unequal playing ground if your dog can be off leash while all others are on. I liken it to you having to attend a dinner party and be the only person wearing handcuffs; it simply would not be as fun. Your dog relinquishes a lot of control to you while on leash, and it is unsettling for a lot of dogs to encounter a dog off leash while they are on; show respect for your neighbors and obey leash laws!

Don’t leave your dog tied up outside of stores: there are just too many people and other dogs who will pass, it really puts your dog at risk. There are people who will also steal your dog. These people either take them and use them as bait dogs in illegal dog fighting rings, or flip your dog, and sell it, far away, for a lot of money.

Your dog doesn’t need to like every dog! In the city you will see a lot of dogs, don’t just let your dog run up to greet every single one, even if she is friendly. A lot of other dogs aren’t or are in training, and you could be undoing a lot of hard work. Instead teach your dog to sit to greet, it is like saying “please can I go play?” And it gives you time to ask the other dog owner if his dog is friendly. If he says “yes,” you can release the sit and let the dogs play. If he says “no,” then respect that and move on. In my opinion you should thank him for being honest because it isn’t easy to admit your dog isn’t that friendly, but it is the safe and responsible thing to do!

Barking is something that threatens my clients homes at times; in city dog living we need to end barking yesterday! I understand the urgency when I go to help people with their barking dogs, but it is important to remember dogs bark; and while it is hard to find a place that it is appropriate in the city; it is crucial to find time to let your dog be a dog.

If you live in the city and are considering getting a dog or puppy it is important to plan time to socialize that dog to the city. If your vet doesn’t want him walking on the ground, don’t just keep him in your apartment. You have until he is 16 weeks old to socialize him to the sounds, sights and smells of the city. If you are adopting an older dog it will be a good idea to be sure the dog has walked on a busy city sidewalk comfortably. If the dog has lived his life in a rural, quiet setting, he might never get used to city streets, he might be too scared to walk down the street, and eventually even leave your apartment! It is very sad, but I have seen exactly this many times. The adjustment from quiet life to city life is a transition not all dogs can make.

The last thing I am going to say might sounds silly, but pick up your dog’s poop! Come on people, he’s your dog, clean up after him! I know we have all forgotten a bag once or twice, but make a conscience effort to clean up the mess your dog leaves behind. I am an animal lover to the core, and I don’t get grossed out very easily, but even I don’t want to step in dog poop! Also a huge pet peeve of mine; snow doesn’t dissolve poop! If your dog poops on the snow banks on the curb, you still have to pick it up.

I know that there is a stereotype that people in cities aren’t as friendly, but let’s do our best to show that this isn’t true for the dog community! There are a lot more of us in a smaller space, so perhaps we all have to be a bit more courteous, but dogs are incredibly social creatures and if you live in a city with a dog there are a lot of opportunities to socialize, play and train together; take advantage!

By in Puppies & New Dogs 0

To Socialize, or Not to Socialize: This Is the Question

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks… Well not exactly, you can certainly teach an older dog a new “trick,” but you won’t likely be able to teach him to accept something he did not experience in the first 16 weeks of his life; this is your puppy’s crucial socialization period.

“…But my vet told me not to take my puppy outside…” If your vet tells you that your pup cannot leave your home until he has finished his vaccinations, then please ask questions, do not just accept this at face value. The questions you should consider asking include:

Can my puppy go outside if I carry him?

Your vet should be fine with this. Your puppy can, and should meet as many different  people as possible in his first 16 weeks of life. Carrying him around your neighborhood will help with this. Also your pup cannot catch anything from people, so if he is a breed that as a puppy will stay small enough to carry easily, this will be a great way to meet people. I find it is best to carry your pup around and look for people who notice him. Any time a person even gives me an “aww, cute puppy!” I ask if they would like to pet him. Try to find different looking people, in hats, or sunglasses, and of different races, sizes and genders. These positive experiences with people who all look different will create an adult dog who is friendly towards people of all shapes and sizes.

Can my dog play with other dogs?

To Socialize, or Not to Socialize: This Is the QuestionThis is where we have to be most careful. If you do not know the dog and owner very well, I wouldn’t risk it! It is much safer to find puppy play groups where your pup can play with other pups his age. If you choose to completely avoid dog-dog interactions until your pup has completed his shots, this can be fine, but it should be your main focus to find play groups, or make play dates for your pup right after his last shots. This is another reason to be sure you have tackled all other forms of socialization before this point. It is also important to remember that even if you have another dog, this does not count as dog-dog socialization. Give your pup a chance to understand more dogs by meeting as many possible; if you only knew your siblings you might not understand different kinds of people; the same is true for your dog.

If you live in a city I find it best to bring your puppy to a noisy street corner, and just sit; a bus stop can be a great place for this. If your pup gets scared, and you are not, you can comfort your dog and let him know that the noises won’t hurt him. He can accept this much more quickly and easily during his crucial socialization period. This is the time to expose him to anything and everything he may need to tolerate during his lifetime. Some common things include; car rides, different people, babies, children, different homes, other animals in the house, and even plane rides. If you can fit in the time to  practice these things with your pup early on, you will find these situations much easier when he is an adult dog. Socialization is crucial for your dog, and it can be done safely and still be effective, so don’t be so quick to just take your veterinarians advice without asking more about this very important time in your puppy’s life.

If I haven’t convinced you, then I strongly encourage you to speak to your friends with dogs. Ask them what they did, and how it has affected their pup’s behavior, training, and life. Try to find at least one friend who listened to the vet, and kept his pup locked away for four months, and try to find someone who did safe socialization. It can also be helpful to try to find people with the same or similar breeds as your pup.

As time passes and more studies are done about dogs, we as people should continue to evolve our opinions based on this research. If your vet simply cannot accept that dogs have a crucial socialization period, which on average is the first sixteen weeks of their life, then I would consider finding a vet who can accept this and reflects our current understanding of dogs. This may sound harsh, but unsocialized dogs take a lifetime of training and conditioning to catch up to the socialized puppies, it can be done safely and effectively without risking your puppies health, and it should be!!

What Is Clicker Training?

What Is Clicker Training?You may have heard of clicker training, and you may not be quite certain what it is. Is it right for me? Is it right for my dog? Do I always need the clicker? Where did Clicker Training come from? As a force free dog trainer I find clicker training extremely useful, but perhaps not in the way some of you are accustomed, or perhaps in a way you haven’t heard of; I like to use it for capturing.

In clicker training, the click is a marker for the moment the animal has shown us a desired behavior. To teach the dog this we start by warming up the clicker, simply by clicking and feeding a treat after we click. At first you can click anytime, as long as your dog isn’t doing something naughty. We teach the dog to understand that that sound predicts good things coming. It is the same idea as Pavlov’s Dogs who learned the sound of the bell meant their food was coming, and thus the bell made the dogs’ mouths to water in anticipation of what follows. This is exactly what we want our dog to learn about the click.

After warming up the clicker with the reward immediately following, we want to vary the amount of time between the marker (click) and the reward, this way we can still use the marker when our dog is far away, because he has learned that sometimes the rewards take a bit longer following the marker. Once we have finished warming up the clicker, we can start to use it for training. Trainers use the clicker for everything from basic obedience, to shaping. Shaping is when we decide a desired behavior, let’s say a spin, and then we will start with very low criteria for the dog to earn clicks, so we may click and treat when the dog simply turns her head. Then once the dog is offering us a head turn, we may only click if the dog turns her head at least a quarter of the way around, and so on until the full spin is the only behavior that earns the click.

I personally love to use clickers for capturing. Capturing is when we don’t ask our dog for a specific behavior, but simply wait for her to offer us the behavior on her own, and then I capture this with a click and treat! For example, if your dog barks at the doorbell, I love the clicker to help teach quiet. Dogs mimic our behaviors, so when they are barking, any talking from us is likely to make the barking worse. Especially the yelling match that sometimes happens: BARK, “QUIET,” BARK, “QUIET,” which came first? I find it much better to ring the doorbell, let your dog bark, and wait for the quiet, as soon as your dog offers you some quiet, click and treat! Remember the example of the spin, criteria should change, so when you first start this your dog should earn a click for even a moment of quiet, but as you train you can change the criteria to two seconds of quiet, then four, and so on.

Another good example is using the clicker to train your dog not jump using capturing. Allow your dog to jump, and as soon as she stops, click and treat. After a while, if you notice that she looks like she wants to jump, but holds herself back, click and treat for this and even jackpot her with 3 small treats in a row for making such good choices!  I love to use clickers for capturing because dogs think they are training us to click by offering us nice behaviors. Even if you don’t think you will need a clicker I think it is best to warm up the clicker to your dog so that if you need it, she already knows what it means, and the best news is, it is never too early, or too late to start clicker training! If you are interested in clicker training, please go to our ‘Contact Us‘ Page and fill in your information, include a note about the clicker blog, and your favorite colors, and I will happily send you a Pawsibilities Clicker to get started!