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One Year of Clicker Training

It's been a little over a year that I've been using the clicker. When I got my puppy Diesel I was determined to learn clicker training. I did not only want to learn a new training method but understand it too, what, when and why. So Diesel is my first "fully" clicker trained dog.

We've struggled and we've succeeded. I've made many mistakes, some on purpose - to find out why, many unintentionally :). I have tried to be very strict with how I train, even to the extent that if I don't know how to teach something using OC, then Diesel won't learn it. She will, when I have the know-how.

Due to this, Diesel may have learned things slowly. When I compare how many cues she knows to my first Lab (that I was eager to train) then yes, Diesel knows fewer cues than Debbie did at her age. However, there's something quite incomparable, something that strikes me with this dog and that's our relationship. It's difficult to put in words exactly but I think many of you know what I mean. I didn't know it was possible to be so close to an animal. Now, I've had lots of animals all through my life and I've loved them all dearly. They've also all been close to me, I'm that kind of a person. Yet still, there's something quite remarkable here.

Diesel knows me, she reads me very well and on top of all *I* read her well. I think many dogs read us better than we read them. She's very trusting, she doesn't expect anything bad from me. I get mad at her at times, I get mad at the dearest people too. But when I occasionally yell at Diesel, she looks at me, wags her tail and takes a play position "are we playing rough, eh?". That's it, she takes care of my bad mood, I can't watch that and pout.

Everything she does, she seems to do from her own will. She looks content. She looks like she's expecting things with open mind and eyes, with enthusiasm. No more of that "aaawww.. if you insist" -look. Everything seems to be fun to her. If it's not fun but needs to be done, I have the power to turn it fun! Talk about power! That's awesome. I have to be honest; even if Diesel didn't learn a single new behaviour, I couldn't care less. I couldn't have asked for what I have now.

This year of clicker training has had influence on something else too: myself. This may sound a bit silly but it has had a huge impact on me personally. I've become much more patient with people. I've always had a enormous need to understand, now I can accept I don't need to understand everything, everyone and all the time. I see things differently. No matter how naive this may be I often catch myself thinking, in the midst of anger or despair, that how can I turn this better? How can I make this good? I've managed to change myself a little. I've managed to broaden my way of thinking by seeing a bit clearer where it ends, where it doesn't reach and when I need to others to show me what's beyond.

I've also learned to apply OC with people a little. Now that's what I call learning. It's one thing to clicker train animals but it's a whole different ball game to clicker train humans :). If I can learn that, I've learned much more than I bargained for. This has taken me so deep that I don't want to stop here. I've gone back to University to continue my Psychology studies, which I started over 10 years ago, never finished and had lost interest in.

This, my dear clicker friends, is the result of clicker training. And this is my humble and late thanks to Marian Breland Bailey who in many ways started it all.

Laura I. Kansanen
copyright 2001 Laura I Kansanen


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