September 10, 2014

Having a new puppy has really been a great experience. Here are two things that have helped beyond my expectations.


I've always been clumsy with the clicker/leash/treats/verbal cues combination. In the back of my mind I believed that the clicker is superfluous to the dog training process. I've probably used a clicker in training dogs in 5 separate dog classes over the years. But now, finally, I don't feel at odds with the mechanics -- I might say its almost beginning to feel natural. Touch click treat; sit click treat; down click treat; leave it click treat. Got it.  

Then a few days ago I was preparing to do some training with my Belgian Tervuren puppy, Dax, in the kitchen. Got the treats in the bag on my belt; got the clicker and some treats in my right hand. Went through some cues using up the treats in my right hand. I got more treats out of my bag with my left hand and when I went to put them in my right hand I inadvertently clicked while Dax was looking away. She immediately turned and looked at me all happy and attentive. Without a cue, without a treat, just the click and my dog turned her attention to me.

Photo: Bing, Ali, Cyan and Tango. Swimming in Tuscarora lake. Two Clicks: the clicker and the camera shutter. This was my third use of the clicker without a verbal cue, and Dax's response was immediate and positive. Generally I use the clicker as I believe I'm supposed to -- to mark something good that my puppy has done.
More "cue, click, treat" training over the next couple of days and I thought I'd see if the click only incident was a fluke. Again it was in the context of training, but the same thing happened...I had my dog's attention. I understand that the clicker is a marker, not an attention getting device, but now I have a real sign that the sound of the clicker really means something important to my dog.

While out walking the dogs I usually don't add the clicker because of the one-more-thing-factor walking multiple dogs, but now I'll have to.

No-pull Harness

The SENSE-ation No-Pull Dog Harness works like magic. Dax was absolutely frustrating on leash. I had treats with me on our walks. She already responded well to her name, knew some basic cues like touch, sit and down. But with a regular collar and leash she pulled like crazy and was not responding to any of my cues. I had similar experiences in the past with other dogs and puppies, even to the point where they ran to the end of a leash, long line, or flexi leash, and choked themselves badly at the end of their rope. So as in the past I expected it to take months of dedicated hard work the get it under control. My wife had often suggested to students, and now to me, that I try a no-pull harness.

At first it really didn't make any difference on our first walk using it. But after about 10 minutes, Dax started pulling noticeably less. And she also began responding better to verbal cues. I don't think I was doing anything differently. But she stopped pulling full force at the end of her leash. She isn't bothered by it, doesn't chew on it, and doesn't pay any attention to it at all. She just walks naturally and when she gets to the end, stops.

I almost feel like using it is cheating. I don't have to train her not to pull. But on the other hand, a typical leash, even a martingale, trains a dog to pull. The message with a typical collar is: pull harder and you’ll get closer to the thing you want. Now, if she pulls harder her whole body turns away from what she wants. (Just like my wife said she would.) Of course when she turns she gets to look at, hmmm, me!

So now I've added a "click, treat" to the no-pull harness our daily walking routine. It really makes a cumulative difference.




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