ClickerSolutions Training Articles

Clicker Training Saved Our Life

I am sold.

In 24 hours my poor little scaredy-cat dog went from a "never-gonna-pee-because-i'm-scared-of-my-master" boring annoyance to a healthy, happy, functional companion.

Let me explain:

After months of discussions with my wife whom is afraid of nearly any creature living (human or not), we finally decided that our family should begin its expansion - starting with a dog (don't hold your breath for the baby). We went in search of an old pet store that I had known about when I lived here in Huntsville, Alabama years ago. My wife is Korean and I lived in Korea for five years. Anyway, we heard some nasty stories about puppy mills and dogs' bodies in freezers and were told that pet stores really don't carry dogs due to the laws. We went to the Humane Society and found a beautiful, 4-month, black lab/dalmation. She has a white paw, belly, and shoulder. Actually both front paws are white, yet it was her one-white shoulder that stole my heart.

After about 12 hours together, my wife made friends with Kay ('kay' happens to also be Korean for 'dog', which is way-cool, of course. The mutt was so stubborn that she would not ride in the car unless being physically clutched during the entire trip. Since I'm usually the pilot, my wife came to terms with inevitability. However, this was far from the apex of Kay's protuberances.

She refused to alleviate herself outside, regardless of how long I waited patiently - or not patiently. I spent 4 hours outside. And it was cold. We were having a windy-cold snap that nearly made ME snap. Why wouldn't this damned dog pee? I brought her inside and she went immediately to her bed. She always went to her bed. She wouldn't play. She wouldn't eat or go outside unless I picked her up and carried her to the destination.

I tried to ignore her whilst worrying that she would arise and christen before I noticed. I searched the Internet for training information. I needed help. I first went to The first training page that I surfed into solved my problems. I read every page there and then surfed into I was hooked. I printed 50-60 some-odd pages. I procured a clicker (a halloween trinket, with a witch's face on it) at 9:30 that very night.

I tried to use the examples that were available to interpolate the ideas into solutions for my problems. It was so easy to get started:

  1. I was tired of being stressed from yelling at the dog,
  2. The dog was so scared of me spanking her during mistakes that she wouldn't even pee OUTSIDE - she probably thought I didn't want her to pee ANYWHERE!, and most of all
  3. Reinforcing positive behavior is good, but forcing oneself to ignore the bad behavior gives one time to turn around and think about training objectives, goals, and achievements rather than thinking about how to catch the dog doing something wrong.

My dog was housetrained, playful, and loyal in 24 hours. Several hours after I had introduced the click=reward idea to Kay, I 'clicked' her as she loosed her faucet (outside). She got it right then. She knew. I know she knew. She slept 7 hours that night and didn't mess the floor. I couldn't believe it. She even let me hit the snooze button FOUR times. I kept rolling over and looking at her to see if it was time. She would just give me an indifferent look and put her head back down. I got to click her outside AGAIN after I finally awoke and ventured out with her.

Part of her initial problem were the roundworms, which took allot of her energy. Yet, it was obvious that she was just scared of me. Using a click-treat game every time she touched this old piece of rope, I coaxed her to play tug-of-war in less than 5 minutes. Prior to the click training, she would RUN if I tried to touch the rope - even if I had been no closer than 5 feet from her.

Anytime she comes to me she gets a click. I don't even have to hold the clicker in my hand. I usually keep it in my pocket and then press it with my hand, elbow or whatever. She can hear it - probably allot better than I can. I started applying a whistle as the 'command'. I continually shortened the whistle, while providing clicks upon arrival, hand praise, vocal praise - and the occasional half-dog biscuit for stressful or complex situations (cars, people, eating time). She's not perfect (yet), but I can get her haulin' booty from at least 25 yards with just the briefest of whistling. She wants that click.

Jay, Myoung-hee, and Kay
copyright 2000 Jay Johnston


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