Oct 142012

I am an advocate for training our dogs because it is just plain fun, fun for us, fun for the dog.  A dog trainer friend of mine quietly handed me a new book a couple of weeks ago and now I realize there was a spark in her eye and a hidden smile as she passed it to me.

The name of the book is Reaching the Animal Mind by Karen Pryor.  Ms. Pryor was a pioneer in the use of markers (whistles and clickers) first with dolphins and then zoo animals and later dogs as she did research for her study of behavioral biology.   Because she is a professional, it might seem that the book would be a heavy read.  However, it is very interesting.  Of course there are lots of examples of her dolphin research and zoo animal consultations but it is written in layman’s terms with lots of entertaining stories.

I dug out my clickers , stuck some kibble in my pockets and decided there are some behaviors in my pack that are annoying me so they are my target for the next few days or weeks.  Clicker training is to help dogs learn new “tricks” but also to eradicate bad habits by clicking and treating them to extinction.

Ike, my 7 year old mini male, who I mention in my blog often can be a nervous barker when he feels stressed.  He also spins when excited, sometimes until he makes himself a little frantic.  He has been my first target to click and treat him when he’s in a calm state, and as he practices the basic obedience commands that he already knows. In his excitement, he also likes to jump on us as we come inside or just to get our attention so I’m also clicking and treating him when his all fours are on the floor.  He knows the words or commands but the click does something to the doggy brain that just the words cannot do.  It’s really interesting to see the difference that the clicker makes even over using a marker word like “yes” or “good”.  I am already seeing a change in his demeanor.  He’s a good boy but needs some tweaking.

Swagger, my little boy learned when he was a baby that his shrill little barks got him picked up, got him on and off the couch, got him out of his crate, etc.  In other words his cuteness and a little noise got him whatever he pleased.  Well, it’s overdue to extinguish the woofs and replace with other more acceptable behaviors to indicate what he wants or needs.  I can’t blame him because dogs do whatever we reinforce and what works…like our children!!

You get the idea!  Training is ongoing and requires short spurts of time each day to work best.  When we get lazy, our dogs get lazy as well or into habits that we don’t like.  Smart dogs need to be challenged to be at the top of their game.

This book is available on Amazon and I recommend it for your collection.  It’s probably one that I’ll read more than once.  Thanks, Leslie, for sneaking it in without a sermon 🙂

 Posted by at 1:30 am

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