Does Clicker Training Work? And Can Anyone Do it?
Any person who wants to be a responsible dog owner needs to learn how to train their dog. Especially if they have a Pit Bull. At a minimum, the dog should be able to reliably sit, lay down, come when called, walk on a loose leash, and greet people politely (without going crazy). This is the foundation for being a good canine citizen.
There are many methods for training dogs, but the one that always floats to the top nowadays is clicker training, a form of operant conditioning. But does it work? And can anyone off the street learn how to do it.
It seems the answer to this question is an emphatic YES. In some ways, it's easier than other forms of training. After all, the concepts of clicker training aren't exactly rocket science. We've talked about it here and here.
However, easy concept doesn't translate into easy practice.
This is why we were grateful to Canis Clickertraining Academy for providing us with a review copy of the "Clicker Training: The 4 Secrets to Become a Supertrainer."
The e-book is written by Morten Egtvedt and Cecilie Koste, two dog trainers from Scandinavia who learned the art from Karen Pryor herself, and have been training animals for over 18 years.
The e-book clocks in at 213 pages, and they make good use of the space.
They start off with the history of clicker training, operant conditioning, and the science behind it. And thankfully, it doesn't spend too much time dwelling there. They quickly get to where the rubber meets the road, showing you exactly how to clicker train.
Detailed Map to a Trained Dog
One challenge of clicker training is laying out a plan of attack, keeping track of your successes, and where you can pick up next time. If you don't do these things, you'll just go in circles. Sometimes, you also just don't know where to start.
This book has you covered so you don't go insane.Towards the end, the book lays out a detailed, step-by-step map you can follow for teaching 30 behaviors. These include the necessary basics like:
- Loose-leash walking
- Crate training
- Polite greetings
And many more. But then you also get maps for fun, goofy stuff like "turn off the lights" and "getting a soda from the fridge". While these are certain to impress friends and neighbors, the maps for these are more valuable for teaching the reader how to think creatively when clicker training.
If you follow the first 18 of these plans in order, you'll probably have the best well-behaved dog in a 50 mile radius.
Often, these plans and structure are really what professional dog trainers charge you for. After all, they are really training you, the owner, and giving you a framework to operate in. You'll probably be doing most of the work at home anyway (unless you send your dog off to some kind of boarding school or get private in-home lessons for your dog, both expensive options).
In our opinion, these plans are worth hundreds of dollars.
Above and Beyond the Basics
But the authors aren't content just to keep you at that basic level. The book contains explanations and examples of "targeting", which makes training more advanced behaviors easier.
Then they go into the concept of "backchaining". This was something we had never come across before, but it's infinitely valuable. The concept involves chaining together behaviors to come up with more complex behaviors, such as agility and obedience competition routines.
But you don't start at the beginning. You start at the last behavior you want, and work back from there. The explanation for why this works best psychologically and the detailed examples given were some of the most informative things we have read.
You'll also learn about the unique problems of crossover dogs. These are dogs that have been trained with aversive techniques, and they offer some addition challenges. You're given some tools to help you through them.
And finally, correcting behavior problems like agression and fear are given their some space, although not in any extreme detail. The good news is that the book is heavily sourced, and their bibliography contains all the material and further reading you need, if you decide to delve further.
Not All Honey and Roses
We only have a few criticisms. First, this is a secondary translation. The original language was not English. The translation is very good, fluid, and readable, but there are a few quirks here and there as well as some editing mistakes. These are few and far between, and don't detract from the main objective of the material.
They are also strong proponents of NEVER luring the dog to do anything. While this might be an ideal method for training, it takes even more patience than usual while you are just waiting for the dog to offer up the behavior you are looking for. Thankfully, they are not too dogmatic about it, and certainly know that luring with food the first few times is sometime necessary.
If you buy the e-book, you also get access to 5 videos showing the authors training some of the advanced behaviors. It's helpful to see what you've been reading about in action. Especially good for visual learners.
Should You Buy this Training Guide?
We recommend this book to anyone serious about having a good dog and being a good example of what Pit Bulls can really be. It's the straightest path to that goal. And its fun. And as we said before, you'll probably have the best dog on the block and be able to easily impress your neighbors with how well-behaved your Pit Bull is.
Our dogs had reached a road block in their training. They just couldn't seem to understand "down" meant for them to lay down. We tried everything. Mainly luring with food.
We decided to put some of the concepts of this book to use. After conditioning the clicker, it took about 10 minutes for one of our dogs to begin reliably laying down when one of us said "down". We couldn't believe how fast it happened.
It's a special moment when you can almost see the gears turning in the dog's brain, and then everything finally "clicks" or them. You can see understanding light up in their eyes, that they can get you to click if they do a certain thing!
And don't worry. We would never recommend this if it didn't come with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. You have 56 days to try the guide out, and if you don't think it was worth it, the authors will give you a refund - no questions asked.