ClickerSolutions Training Articles

Clicker-Trained OTCHs?

As far as I know, there have been no American OTCHs. Several list members have said that they know of dogs who are within a win or a few points of getting their OTCH, so I have no doubt there will be one (many) soon. There have been Canadian and, I *think*, Australian OTCHs. Not sure about England.

There has been a clicker-trained Service Dog of the Year and clicker-trained police dogs. Tons and tons of multiple-title-winning clicker-trained agility, freestyle, and Rally-O dogs.

Here's the spiel I give if the person is reasonable and wants to learn. If the person has a closed mind, don't waste your breath -- they don't want to listen.

Although clicker training has been around for a long time, it's just now starting to move beyond the grassroots level in the dog world. There are finally classes in more and more places, but the majority of those classes are for pet dogs. One book was written about competition obedience a few years ago. In the last year or so, a few more resources have appeared. People who want to clicker train for obedience are largely on their own to figure out the specifics of *how* to train the behaviors. The old traditional recipes, just don't translate.

In order to have an OTCH (or any other title!!), you need...

  • a trainer who thoroughly understand the training method he is using
  • a trainer who thoroughly understands the sport he is participating in and the individual behaviors he needs to train
  • a dog who has the talent and physical ability to do the behaviors of competition obedience at a precise-enough level to consistently win
  • a dog who is -- and remains -- structurally sound enough to compete an OTCH
  • the desire to train and compete enough to obtain an OTCH
  • the money to train and compete enough to obtain an OTCH
  • the opportunity to train and compete enough to obtain an OTCH
  • the time to train and compete enough to obtain an OTCH

You have to have every single one of those elements. Every one. The reality is, it takes years to become good enough to train to OTCH level, even if you have the resources to help you get there.

It's also a reality that participation in competition obedience is sharply declining. (It's regularly discussed in Front & Finish.) But participation in other dog sports is rapidly climbing. Also, there are more dog sports -- it used to be that competition obedience was largely the only game in town. Now that other dog sports have become so prevalent and so accessible, it simply stands to reason that clicker trainers -- like most other trainers, according to the numbers -- are choosing to train for the "fun" sports, not for competition obedience. Getting an OTCH simply isn't the pinnacle anymore -- I'm much more impressed by a high-level agility or freestyle dog.

Personally, I'm most impressed by people who train service dogs, police dogs, or search and rescue dogs -- dogs whose behaviors have life or death consequences. That those people are choosing clicker training -- and succeeding -- is much more convincing to me than an OTCH.

Melissa Alexander
mca @
copyright 2002 Melissa Alexander


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