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Clicking in the Shelter: It's all about Communication

From Nancy Lyon, Upper Valley Humane Society:

For those who might encounter resistance introducing the clicker to their shelters, how about selling clicking as a method used to communicate and not call it a "training" method. We all want to get our shelter dogs to repeat good behaviors and stop repeating bad behaviors. In the shelter environment most of the dogs have a wide array of "bad" behaviors; most are the result of no self-control.

The clicker lets everyone—staff/volunteers and most incredibly the animals, speak the same language. It is the communication that results when the humans begin to stop talking, pushing, pulling, touching, and manipulating and start seeing, capturing and reinforcing "goodness." Almost instantly the dogs understand that humans with clickers only talk with them about how to get "good" stuff (food or play or walks or pats) just for paying attention to them quietly. Though our volunteers teach some basic obedience with the clicker, our primary goal is using it to teach self-control—loose leash walking, sit for greeting, waiting to enter/exit—in exchange for valued resources. The remarkable effect on everyone in a shelter who uses the clicker and reinforcement is the collective sigh they hear back from almost every animal when they realize that the humans, often for the first time, are listening to them.

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