How We Train

Paws Abilities uses positive reinforcement techniques (and more specifically, clicker training) for every dog. Why?

Quite frankly, we use what works. Clicker training has proven to be faster, more effective, and more resistant to extinction than other methods. There’s a reason it’s used in zoos and aquariums worldwide to train everything from fish to tigers to penguins. The principles of positive reinforcement training even work to train goldfish! Type “clicker trained fish” into YouTube or Google, and multiple videos of trick-trained goldfish will pop up. If it works for a goldfish, it will certainly work for smarter animals, such as your dog!

Years ago, dog training was done in a very confrontational manner. Dogs were taught to “do it, or else.” If the dog didn’t comply immediately, he was punished by a sharp jerk on his neck or other physical punishment. Luckily, today there’s a better way. It’s not ever necessary to hurt, scare, or intimidate your dog in the name of training.

Clicker training creates happy dogs!

Clicker training is a precise way of communicating to your dog when he is right. The clicker is a small mechanical device that makes a cricket noise when pressed. Whistles can also be used in place of clickers.

The clicker works as a marker signal. We want to mark the instant the dog makes a good choice. By clicking when your dog does a good job, you’re telling him “you did something right, you won a prize!” Think of the clicker as a camera that lets you take a picture of the exact behavior you want the dog to do.

The click always predicts that something good is coming: a toy, a treat, a special game, or anything else your dog is very motivated to work for. Since the dog is working for the click, we are able to use treats or other things that the dog likes as rewards for good behavior rather than needing to use them as bribes to get the dog to comply.

In addition to its benefits as a precise marker, the clicker bypasses the verbal processing area of the brain and goes straight to the amygdala, which is the emotion center. The clicker becomes associated with instantaneous feelings of joy, making training a natural “high” for your dog.

In future posts, we’ll explore some of the downfalls of other training methods, ways to set your dog up for success, and some common myths about clicker training. In the meantime, I’m curious to learn about your personal training history. Did you start off with clicker training, or have you “crossed over” from another method? Do you have any questions about clicker training or other training methods? I look forward to your comments!

9 responses to “How We Train

  1. Clicker training and a gentle leader has made a world of difference in walking my 70 lb lab who is afraid of other dogs.

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  9. Christine Wyatt

    I found that it is so much easier to use a marker word. It’s just so unrealistic to carry a clicker around all the time.

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