Anyone Can Train Their Dog
By Art Hess
Dog training is the process of modifying the behavior of a dog, either for it to assist in specific activities or undertake particular tasks. If you have been a student of dog training over the past twenty or more years you have encountered things like operant conditioning, positive dog training, lure and reward training, treat training, and marker training and/or clicker training.
Operant conditioning is simply where the student forms an association between a behavior and a consequence. The others are simply various forms of this. Thankfully the old “yank and crank” or “jerk and pull’ advocates” are mostly not around any more but I’m sad to report that there are still those that believe that punishing the dog is way the to go.
Positive training is simply luring the dog into a position (i.e. a Sit) or a movement (the Recall or Come) and rewarding the student when they perform the task. Initially the lure and reward is usually food because it is the easiest and most effective form of motivation at the early stages and subsequently we phase out the food and proceed through balls or toys and finally on to voice praise and physical confirmation and praise.
Some of the confusion comes in the areas of marker training and clicker training and as in many cases the advocates of both maintain that their system is the best when in fact from the point of view of the student, they are mostly the same. In a nutshell we use a marker (a single word like “yes”) to tell the student precisely when they have achieved the desired position or performed the desired act. With clicker training the click replaces the voice marker.
I personally was using “lure and reward” training and marker training for many years before I even learned that it had a specific name. Due to the space constraints of this column and thanks to the internet I want to refer you to three sites that are free and will provide excellent sources of learning for those that are interested in furthering their knowledge.
First I would choose “Mary Woodward’s Clicker Training Lessons”. This is a well presented overview followed by a series of lessons that can be copied and applied. There are many sites available but this is a great starter and if you never went any further you would have a good grasp of clicker training.
Next I suggest “Gary Wilke’s Click and Treat.” Open his site and click on the moving clicker and start with his over view which is very detailed and informative. Next go to his 18 articles which take you step by step through the process of starting and training your dog and works right up to advanced training and problem solving. This has been my “go to” preference for some time.
Finally we will switch and study Marker Training. For this I always refer students to an e-book from Leerburg.com by Ed Frawley. Open Leerburg.com and go to “e-books The Power of Training with Markers and Clickers.” This is a free book of about 75 pages and is the most complete presentation you can find on Marker Training. Frawley clearly explains the differences and similarities and the pros and cons in his opinion. You have to wade through a few info-mercials but the entire book is free and can be printed if you so desire.
So there you have it?The “down and dirty” on positive treat training. Try it. Apply it. You will be happy and you’ll have a happy well trained dog. No ladies, it won’t work on husbands.