A New Year begins your orders are flooding the website and making the phones ring clicker training is on the rise. At the end of January I taped a spot for WNBC Nightly News in New York (local New York news, not national). They wanted to do something on clicker training. I arranged to give a clicker "in-service" training at the Brooklyn animal shelter, to a bunch of eager young animal control officers with some hilariously off-the-wall half-grown dogs. The staff watched me click the first dog or two, then grabbed their clickers and soon were clicking dogs effectively right and left.
What can you do with a clueless, mixed breed, unsocialized adolescent dog in five minutes, to make it more adoptable? Click for eye contact! Click for pausing between bouncing off the walls-then for sits. Click for nosing the clicker, or the hand without the food. Suddenly you have the dog's attention. Maybe it starts thinking: "How can I make you click?"
Try calling and clicking the dog back and forth, doing 'ping-pong comes' between two, three or four people. Click for tail wags (everyone click, everyone toss a treat. Wow! Jackpot for attitude!) Click for a touch to the head, chest, shoulder, back: some of these dogs are hand shy only because they don't know what it is to get a pat.
Presto, in ten minutes or less, the dog has learned to notice humans, look in their faces, pay attention to them, offer sits, respond when called. Now it's a dog a family might love to take home.
NBC filmed everything. The NBC reporter, who owns two shelter-rescued schnauzers, wanted to try. With just a little coaching from me she clicked a young boxer mix into shaking hands, right on camera. Good job!
Why not volunteer to do some clicker training at your local shelter? You don't need to be an expert, just clickerwise enough to catch, click, and treat a glance, a pause, a tentative tail wag. You might save a life. Or, if you're already teaching, donate a few clickers and offer to give a quick class to the kennel staff. Even just eye-contact and a sit, clicked a few times in a few minutes, makes the dog more appealing. And even in one brief lesson the dog learns, perhaps for the first time, to try to learn: a life-saving skill in itself.
Interested in clicker research?