Our very first obedience class – it feels like decades ago – Shiva and I were introduced to the clicker. I was suspicious of this tool. It felt unnatural in my hand. I knew I would look like an obnoxious idiot in the street if I used such a thing in public. I didn’t want to become one of those dog trainers. Whatever that means.
I’d seen others around, clicking and yelling and jumping around. They all looked nuts. They all looked like crazy dog people with their sneakers and their over-sized sweatshirts. I wanted to train my dog calmly and quietly. I wanted to look cool while doing it.
Clickers, apparently, were not cool. Clickers were for inexperienced newbies. I had read books. I didn’t need to resort to clicks and other silly noises.
So we used the clicker in class only. But as I had zero practice I wasn’t very skilled and kept dropping it on the floor. Holding the treats, the leash, and the clicker was too much for my un-coordinated body. I could never get the click in fast enough. Our patient instructor eventually gave up and told me to use a word instead, like “good.”
Incredibly relieved, I put the clicker in a drawer and never looked back.
A little while ago I attended a dog training seminar put on by some local trainers. They did a few demonstrations with shelter dogs. Dogs that had no training at all. With the use of a clicker, one trainer was able to get both of these dogs to lay down on a mat within minutes. I’d known before how a clicker helps dogs pick up on new behaviours so much faster but I hadn’t seen an actual demonstration for some time. It inspired me to dig ours out from under the pile of junk and give it a shot.
Since my wardrobe today consists of jeans, zip-up sweatshirts, and sneakers, I guess I no longer care about looking like a crazy dog person. May as well add the clicker to complete the look, right?
After one session, my mind was fully blown. Seriously.
I have been trying to teach Shiva to retrieve her leash for the last year and a half. Until now, I haven’t even been able to get her to look at it. But after maybe six minutes of training with the clicker, here is where we are at now:
Clicker training rocks. I am officially converted. I can’t believe I’ve been wasting so much time! Why didn’t anyone tell me?