General training information:


What is Positive Reinforcement Dog Training?
A cute poster summarizing positive dog training.


Frequently Asked Questions about Clicker Training
This page answers frequently asked questions about clicker training.

First, no amount of petting is going to make it worthwhile to your dog to feel panicked. Fear is no more fun for dogs than it is for people. The function of fear is to signal the body that there is danger present, and that the individual feeling fearful had better do something to make the danger, and the fear that accompanies it, go away...

Tossing treats (or toys) to a fearful dog can teach him to associate approaching strangers with something good, as long as the treat is really, really good, and the visitor is far enough away to avoid overwhelming the dog.
When working with an animal that is worried, fearful, concerned or uncomfortable, the most important thing that you can do, besides pairing the scary thing with something good, is to let them choose. Give the animal some control of their body and give them some choice. The power of choice goes a very long way.
But having a high rate of reinforcement is hard for most of us, even when we’re fully on board with using food to train. I know that I personally struggled with that when Maisy and I were first working on her reactivity. I was afraid she’d become dependent on the treats. I was afraid that I’d have to carry food with me everywhere I went. I was afraid I’d never get her back in competitions because food is either not allowed or is very limited in the ring... When I finally began to reward Maisy for as many good choices as I could, even if that seemed like “too many” treats, she began to make PHENOMENAL progress. In fact, these days she’s practically normal.
This program works on the basis of The Premack Principle, which states that more probable behaviors will reinforce less probable behaviors. In simpler terms, a behavior that the animal wants to do (eat, play, sniff, greet, go out an open door, play tug) will be the reward for a behavior the animal is asked to do (sit, wait, step back, target)... Anything that motivates the animal – from the very basics of food and attention, to the very complex requirements of toys and play, even something as mundane as sniffing bushes – can be Premacked, or used as a reward for a requested behavior...At its very core, this program is about allowing good behavior to become normal and bad behavior to be extinguished. Instead of jumping to greet people, or demanding attention by barking, a dog learns to sit and is rewarded with the attention he or she is seeking...This program provides a way for animals and their handlers to build a relationship based on trust and mutual respect. Animals learn that the best way to get what they want is through working with the handler, not in spite of or against the handler. In this way, they learn to cooperate and comply without the use of confrontational, aggressive, painful, or risky tactics. This approach also builds confidence through reward based training, instead of teaching fear and mistrust through the use of punishment.
A dog’s love of a good chase is both a blessing and a curse. It makes playing with them extra fun; what a joy it is to play fetch and chase with some dogs! And it’s got a dark side too–chasers love to chase cats, cars, joggers and bicyclists, and that doesn’t tend to work out so well for all involved... 1. Manage and prevent.. 2. Master at least one incompatible behavior... 3. Ask for a behavior in the presence of the chasee... Be patient and have stamina.
This leaves us with the remaining two options: extinction and training an alternative or incompatible behavior. If you are new to clicker training, find an index card, write down the following, and stick it to your fridge: What is reinforcing this unwanted behavior and how do I remove the reinforcer? What would I like my dog to do instead of this unwanted behavior?