In February 2004, my book Click for Joy! received a Maxwell award from the Dog Writers Association of America for "Best Training or Behavior Book of 2003." The award itself is a heavy medallion, reminiscent of an Olympic medal. Writing a book is much like running a marathon, so I suppose an Olympic medal is fitting, but, in the case of Click for Joy, I think an Oscar metaphor is more apt. This book was a team effort, and there are many people to thank, including the thousands of people who are or have been members of the ClickerSolutions mailing list. Without ClickerSolutions, there would be no Click for Joy.
ClickerSolutions was born in June of 1999. I had grown disenchanted with the other clicker lists I had joined. Clicker training appealed to me because it was based in positive reinforcement, and yet on these lists, punishment seemed the favorite tool—not just for solving dog problems but for interacting with other list members. So, I joined forces with my friend Debbie Otero to create a positive alternative. Our list, we decided, would be limited to solutions—and interactions—true to the "clicker spirit."
We set ourselves up for success. I sent out e-mail to a group of likeminded trainers and asked anyone who was interested to join us in planning the new list. A small group came together, and we began to outline our vision. We wrote a questionnaire that clearly stated our policy about recommending only positive solutions and a welcome letter that described our list purpose. We knew there would be times when topics would get out of hand, so we made a plan for dealing with those—as quickly and positively as possible. It was our job to set the tone. We couldn't expect the list to be friendly if we weren't!
Once we'd made all our plans, we took a deep breath and released our fledgling list to the world. We had no grand dreams. All we wanted was a place where people could find positive solutions to training and behavior problems. We didn't expect exponential growth. We didn't expect to become the largest general clicker list within the first year. Although we planned from the start to foster a positive supportive atmosphere on the list, we didn't expect the communityâ€¦ the familyâ€¦ that evolved.
The core members have changed over the years, the flavor of the posts changing just slightly with each generation, but even as the list membership has skyrocketed, the friendliness and supportiveness have remained constant. In the beginning, we believed it would be up to the monitors to maintain a peaceful atmosphere, but very quickly, it became the members themselves who set the tone. It's not uncommon for a new person to post an inappropriate suggestion or to react aggressively to a situation. Instead of "leash popping" or otherwise aggressively reacting to the undesired behavior, this list of clicker trainers responds with a mix of positive solutions and calming signals. They defend the positive nature of the list by exhibiting the true clicker spirit.
As I said earlier, without ClickerSolutions, there would be no Click for Joy. This list isn't just a safe place—it's also a font of incredibly knowledgeable trainers with backgrounds ranging from search and rescue to service dogs to competition. The questions I addressed in the book were those most commonly asked on the list, and the answers reflect the knowledge of so many wonderful trainers, all of whom have been active on the list at one time or another. But information aside, what the ClickerSolutions list really gave to the book was its willingness to welcome and share and educate without judgment. It gave it its spirit, and that's what makes Click for Joy special.