Tag Archives: Clicker Training for Dogs

Clicker Expo 2013: Ten Years of “WOW”

Karen Pryor and I
Karen Pryor and I

Clicker Expo, held twice a year and organized by the Karen Pryor Academy is a three-day conference where dog trainers and others that work with animals can attend to learn about trends in the industry and participate hands-on with their dogs on various learning labs.

I attended ClickerExpo in San Francisco this past January and was impressed with many aspects of the conference but the two main overarching pieces that I particularly appreciated was:

1) the scientific approach that premised most of the talks and

2) The emphasis on modeling with our human counterparts the very principles that behavior professionals practice and preach about .

I won’t bore you with the scientific approach piece, but I will tell you about the  impact #2 had on me.  As a professional dog trainer that applies the use of positive reinforcement principles, we reward desirable behavior with consequences that the subject deems valuable.  The theory is that behavior that is reinforced is likely to repeat.  So we go on and on talking about the importance of catching our dogs doing the right thing so we can reinforce them, and how it’s important to watch our dogs closely so that when desirable behavior occurs, we’re there to say, “that’s right, that’s what we wanted”.  In essence we teach people to be good observers of behavior and good at reinforcing good behavior.  Well, this is all good and dandy, but what about people?  How many times have we complained to our significant others about a million things but forgot to mention how grateful we were for that one tiny little thing that we really appreciated?  If you’re a manager, how many times have you focused on that one thing that your employee did wrong and forgot to mention how thankful you were for that one thing he/she did that made something else go really smoothly?

ClickerExpo 2013 in Sn Francisco, California
ClickerExpo 2013 in Sn Francisco, California

At ClickerExpo, we had opportunities to get better at reinforcing good human behavior.  Every time, someone did something you really appreciated, you had a chance to provide them with a raffle ticket.  The more raffle tickets you got, the higher your chances of winning the raffle items.

Just to give you an example, right before I attended the conference, I became deathly ill with some weird flu/virus type thing and one particular day of the conference, I had to exit several times in the middle of lectures so as not to disrupt the lecture with my cough and in order to prevent my germs from being shared.  Well, every time I did that and someone noticed, I got a raffle ticket.  For those that brought their dogs, every time someone caught them in the act of doing something right, whether it was exiting the room if the dog barked, or working at the dogs’ level in terms of space, they had an opportunity to get a raffle ticket.  And in general as you met people and conversed, anytime anyone did or said something you really appreciated, you had the opportunity to give them a raffle ticket.

When working with dogs, it’s really fascinating to see how well this principle works, but after ClickerExpo, I was pretty amazed to see how well this principle works with people too.  I got so good at it, I ran out of all my raffle tickets before the conference was over and I  got so many raffle tickets, I won a prize (maybe cause I was really sick, or maybe cause I was really nice–okay fine, probability had a little to do with it).  Nonetheless, it gets you modeling the principles of the work that you do day in and day out.  At the end of the day, you’re living the positive reinforcement life not only with dogs, but with the species that you can’t ever get away from…PEOPLE!  What a concept, it pays to be nice to people too.

To learn more about clicker training click here.

Winners of 2011 National Train Your Dog Month Contest

Winner of APDT's 2011 National Train Your Dog Month

So, I’ve stalled long enough on this one and it’s about time I put this important bit of information out on the information super highway.  I’ve decided that pack members around the globe should not go on one more day without knowing that WE WON A CONTEST!  Yes, that’s right, we won!  We were selected!  Me and Rocco and our video.  Filmed on the beautiful streets of the fine Eastern Shores neighborhood using only the highest quality equipment (my blackberry) and produced and directed by the distinguished filmaker and biggest supporter of Rocco’s Pack (my mother).  It was the morning of January 31st about and hour before her departure that I remembered that it was the last day of National Train Your Dog month.  “Yikes”, I thought, “the contest, I need to submit my photos, my videos!”.  So we skipped all the lessons on using a smartphone and jumped right into the very advanced crash course on making videos with a blackberry…and boy she passed that with flying colors because not only did she get it, but we did one take and best of all WE WON!  Just a few short weeks after downloading, converting and uploading my video which was quite a tasking endeavor for someone who’s never done anything with videos, I received an email from the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) letting me know that our video demonstrating loose leash walking had been selected.  Yay!  Shortly thereafter I received my Amazon gift card followed by what was supposed to be a basket of premier products.  In reality it turned out to be a huge box full of goodies from special food bowls to fancy training clickers and intricate dog toys designed to mentally stimulate the doggies…you know what that means, fun toys for all pack members!  And if that wasn’t enough, the wonderful people at APDT also sent me a NewTrix halter, which I absolutely adore and highly recommend as an alternative to harsh prong collars and choke chains, which not only hurt your dog, but also can cause permanent damage, people please…for the love of your pooch!

So without further adieu, I’d like to publicly thank the wonderful folks at APDT for their second annual “National Train Your Dog Month” campaign http://www.trainyourdogmonth.com/media/20101229/default.aspx

designed to bring awareness to the importance of socialization and training.  And on a personal note, I’d like to just say to everyone that has a dog and enjoys spending time with him/her that training is so much fun.  In addition to giving your dog a job, which will make him a confident and thriving member of your pack, it’ll increase the bond between the two of you and it is truly rewarding to see just how eager he/she is to please you, his benevolent leader.

Take a look at our video where I get to show off a little bit of the work that I, with the help of the awesome trainer, Nadine Litterman have done in training Rocco to not drag me down the street and walk on a loose leash.  Best part:  ALL of it was done using positive reinforcent which equates to treats, lots of praise and lots of love, oh and a dash of patience too.

http://www.trainyourdogmonth.com/winners/default.aspx

http://www.trainyourdogmonth.com/