Editor’s note: Dogs are relinquished to shelters for many reasons. People move, have a new baby, get divorced, lose their homes.
"They fight like cats and dogs."
This saying reflects the commonly held belief that dogs and cats just can't get along because they are natural enemies. People who share their homes with both species, or who have read The Incredible Journey, know that this is not true. Dogs and cats can form fast friendships. It is life experiences with members of the other species, and not an inborn animosity, that determines how cats and dogs feel about each other.
Clicker training, the science-based system of teaching behavior with positive reinforcers and a marker signal, is becoming immensely popular, world-wide, with some dog owners and trainers, while still being rejected by others. It seems so alien, so different from traditional training, that many are very reluctant to try this new system on their already well-trained dogs. Why not leave your dogs out of the picture for the time being, and explore the clicker experience for yourself, with an animal you don't really need or expect reliable performance from: Your cat.
Schooner and the cat thief
A story from my kitchen…
My dog Schooner eats his food, spilling little kibbles out onto the floor. His maw, expansive as it is, has droopy sides, and a few of those little kibbles find their way to the floor. The cat notices the spillage and takes a few steps toward the bowl and the smattering of slobber-softened kibbles. Tentatively, she tastes one, deems it delicious, and continues to move forward kibble by mushy kibble.
A note from Karen Pryor:
Sherri Lippman was an early adopter of clicker training. She is co-author and co-star, with Virginia Broitman, of the award-winning clicker training video, The How of Bow Wow! Sherri has been a presenter at ClickerExpo and at APDT.
While working in California at a wildlife rehabilitation center with a public display of educational animals, one of the challenges Sherri took on was the training of a long-term resident, a crippled raven that was fearful and unapproachable. The following account is, in my opinion, a dazzling example of ingenious behavioral management. Sherri taught the bird to recognize cues for necessary upcoming events, negative (netting the raven for veterinary care), harmless (cleaning and feeding), and positive (training). More to the point, she taught the staff and the many volunteers to present the cues reliably. Read on to see what happened.