Alright I’ve got a confession to make. Right here, right now I shamefully admit that after all these years I am still the worlds worst double handler you would ever want to see. I am every professional handler’s worst nightmare. So there; I’ve said it. It’s out in the open now. So about three years ago, I tell a long time friend of mine my dilemma. She is probably one of the best double handlers in the German Shepherd Dog show world having had a couple of selects and champions to prove what she does works. Under normal circumstances, she has this little meek, mousy kind of a voice that when she raises it to call her dog becomes this shrill that you can hear all over the show ring. I experienced this first hand at a National many years ago when one of her dogs went Select #3. So imagine my surprise when at a National a few years ago, her dog goes Select #2 and not once did I hear her high pitched shrill! I wanted to know how she did that. That’s when she shared her secret with me…………the clicker!
“Just what the heck is a clicker,” I asked her. Turns out it’s this little mechanical device that fits in the palm of your hand that when you press on it, it makes this short click sound. It’s not loud and can easily be carried in your pocket. So she was kind enough and sent me a couple in the mail for my inspection. I walked around the house clicking this little contraption and immediately my dogs responded and searched for the object that interrupted whatever it was that they were doing. It did not take long at all for them to respond each time I clicked on the clicker. I took them for rides in the car and when I came out of the store, I had the clicker in my pocket and as soon as I pressed on it, the dog would sit upright looking for me. I played hide and seek with them and clicked on the clicker and the game was on. I used this to double handle my girl in the futurity, although she has enough energy without the clicker, but it just helped for her to know where I was.
For those of you who follow my blog who are not familiar with double handling, we “semi-sane” German Shepherd Dog show people do this to make our dogs look alert. We want them to stand pretty in the show ring to help give them a little edge on the competition. It also helps to encourage them to move around the ring with enthusiasm.
Now the clicker was not invented with the German Shepherd Dog show person in mind. It was invented for training dogs to do commands more easily. It helps teach the dog that if he does a command that he will be rewarded for it. Some may question why not just teach the dog with a verbal command. The answer seems to be that with the clicker training the dog only associates it with one thing. That one thing is that he is going to be rewarded when he does the command. We all know that dogs love to get rewards and will do most anything to receive them. Unlike the verbal command which can vary in pitch, the clicker always sounds the same so the dog always associates it with something good. The reward can be anything from a piece of food, to playing with the dog or lavishing him with lots of affection. The end result is always something good.
Does the clicker training replace the verbal command? No, it doesn’t. The animal learns the verbal command as well. For instance, you teach him the word sit. When he does the command, you click the clicker and reward the dog. Once the dog knows the command very well, the clicker no longer needs to be used for that particular instruction. Then you can move onto a new command.
The clicker training method has become so popular that it can and is used on other animals as well as dogs. Dolphins respond very well to clicker training as do cats, birds, rabbits, etc.
Do any of you readers use the Clicker training method? I’d like to hear what you have to say about it if you do.
Clickers are very inexpensive and you can buy them at Clicker.com or Amazon. They can range in price from $1.50 to a few dollars.
My rating: durability: (3), ease of training: (4), value: (4)