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Sample Clicker Training Newsletter

Clicker Train USA – December 2005 Newsletter

The website is now new and improved – I would love to hear your comments so I can make it even better.

Hi everyone,

Before we even start I wanted to wish all of us (and our pets) happy holidays. I hope you have a great holiday season in the warmth of your family and friendsJ.
I decided to write an article about dog and doing things for spite. Even though this is not a classic clicker training subject, I thing it is important to understand the idea that dogs simply do not deal with “punishing” their owners.
I really want to hear from all of you. If you have any questions / comments / ideas for the website or for the next newsletter, please let me know. Use our contact us page to write to me.

 In addition, if you have any stories you would like to share with your fellow readers, success stories, training tips, etc. Email me and I will make sure it is on the next newsletter.

We now offer professional consultation through If you have a clicker training question / dog training question / behavior problem / or any other question, you can sign up for an online appointment here 

Clicker training tip of the month:

Many dog owners ask me how much time they should spend on charging the clicker. There is no definite answer but it seems that with mammals – you don’t need to spend much time at all on it. In fact, many trainers, charge the clicker for about 30 seconds each day fro about a week: 10-20 reps each day – not more. During the time, they already start training with it. The association is being built as we go. Scientists tend to charge the clicker for hundreds of repetitions before they start the training. In the real world, it is neither practical nor necessary to do that. If you are starting to train your dog, charge the clicker for 20 repetitions in the first week and during that time, start working with your dog on real exercises like ‘sit’, and ‘down’. Most importantly, don’t worry about it that much, your dog will learn the association rather quickly if your timing is good.

Remember: a click must always be followed with a reward!

Clicker training scent training:

Do you want to train your dog to find your own scent? With clicker training you can. Get a box of tasty treats, a clicker, and several identical (not toys) objects such as fridge magnets. Keep the magnets out in the open for a day or two before starting this exercise.

Now – take 2 magnets only. Hold one of them and rub it in your hands. Grab the other one with tweezers and put both on the floor in front of your dog. The dog will sniff the magnets. When it sniffs the scented one – click and treat. When he sniffs the unscented one – do nothing.

Repeat this exercise until your dog touches the scented magnet only. Then, change the order of the magnets. Put the scented one where the unscented one was and the unscented one where the scented one was. Start the exercise again – most times, your dog will go to the unscented one (the dog is going by location not by scent yet). When it does that – ignore it. When the dog goes for the scented magnet – click and treat. Repeat several times and when the dog gets it right 10 times in a row – replace the magnets again. Keep doing the exercise until the dog figures out that the magnet it is looking for is the scented one. This may take a while so be patient. You will know that your dog is starting to get when it is sniffing the unscented one and goes for the scented one without even looking up at you. Then, you can add a 3rd unscented magnet. At this point you can add a cue to this trick - “find me” or “find it” are good ones.

Have fun.

My dog did that to me for spite

As humans we try to understand other animals by anthropomorphizing (ascribing human characteristics to a non-human) and comparing them to us. It is fairly natural that we would do that. After all, we know our specie better than any other. However, anthropomorphizing can be the source of many misunderstandings between dog and owner. These misunderstandings can cause the owner to act in a manner that is detrimental to the relationship with the dog.

“My dog peed on my bed to get back at me for leaving home alone” is a common sentence among dog owners. Other common phrases include “my dog is barking all day even though she knows she should be quiet” and “my dog is stealing food from the kitchen counter only to see me get angry”. Getting back at someone, distinguishing between good and bad, having a moral conscience, are all characteristics of humans yet have nothing to do with our dogs. Our dogs do not have getting back at the owner on their agenda; they simply don’t do that.

the sooner one realizes that dogs do not and cannot do anything for spite, the sooner one is able to stop punishing his/her dog since, after all, why punish someone if this has nothing but pure intentions.

Dogs learn by association. They “try out” the world and see what happens. All they think about is how their actions can benefit them at the moment of engaging in those actions. Here are a few examples of how dogs may think: I get on the counter, there’s food on the counter, I eat the food and I like it – I will do it again in the future. In contrast: I get on the counter – there is never anything there, I will stop getting on the counter. I am left alone and I’m stressed, I go to my owner’s bedroom, his socks have his smell and it relaxes me – I chew on the socks. In contrast: my owner leaves me alone, I have no access to my owners’ bedroom, only to my room which has toy stuffed with peanut butter and roast beef – I chew on that toy.

The less you spend time trying to figure out why your dog is doing something, and the more you concentrate on the dog’s action and how you can modify them, the more successful you will be in communicating with your dog. It is also important to note that dogs cannot learn after the fact. Once a behavior is over, we cannot reinforce it or punish it. If you want to reinforce your dog (or punish your dog) you have to do it when the action is taking place. When one comes home, sees a puddle of urine and punishes the dog, he/she does not teach the dog anything except that they are dangerous when they come home and they have this certain look on their faces. The dog simply cannot make the connection between a certain consequence that happens 5 seconds, 2 minutes, or an hour after the action that supposedly caused it.

Remember, despite what you might think, and despite what you have been told in the past, your dog does not do anything to get back at you. The reasons for the dog’s actions are much simpler than the complex thinking patterns we ascribe them. There are no ulterior motives and no mysterious conspiracies; if the dog acts in a certain way, it is because she thinks it will benefit her. It is our job to teach her what benefits her and what does not benefit her.

 Book of the month:

 Clicker Training for Obedience - by Morgan Spector

This is the most detailed book for the obedience competitor. If you are looking to compete in the utility ring and if you want to it with positive methods, this book is just what you are looking for. The book is arranged in sections that begin with all the basic knowledge your dog needs to have before you can start teaching the actual competition exercises. By following the step by step processes described in the book, you will manage to get solid behaviors from your dog. Behaviors that will hold true in competition.

The book does not hide any detail from the dog owner. It really is the most extensive book about the subject. You can call it the bible of clicking for obedience if you'd like.

It is winter time and thunderstorms are coming:

If your dog is afraid of thunderstorms, there are things you can do to alleviate the symptoms. Desensitization and counter conditioning can be very effective in reducing the anxiety associated with thunderstorms. You should try to record (or get a desensitization CD) the thunderstorm and then start playing it in a very low volume (which your dog can handle). While listening to the tape, give your dog extra yummy treats. When the tape stops, so do the treats. Over time, raise the volume of the recording. Keep dispensing treats. In about 20 short sessions you can make it up to full volume and eventually, your dog will be able to tolerate (and sometimes even like) the noises associated with a thunderstorm.

Please note that with very fearful dogs, this process can be lengthier and professional help may be needed.

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