How to Maneuver a Clicker for Efficient Dog Training
When you become an “expert” in something I believe you begin to take for granted your stepping stone knowledge.
And, personally I don’t believe anyone is truly ever an “expert”, I believe we can continue to learn no matter how much we know.
But I digress…
I suppose I could be considered an expert of sorts. I have been doing this dog training gig fairly successfully now for over 20 years (if I was that old ha ha).
And nothing is more humbling than getting all of your things together to begin teaching and talking to them and they have this complete “deer in the headlights” look on their faces.
They don’t mean to.
Heck, I don’t mean to talk or expect over their heads.
I just get stuck in my rut of being ME and don’t realize that not everyone functions like I do 😉
Recently while teaching a clicker class to newbies, I wander out with my tool belt (oddly I actually prefer the big box store $2 canvas belts to keep my things in while I train), my leash, my clicker and my dog.
I showed them an obedience skill to work on with their dogs and they looked back at me, fumbling around, in sheer horror.
Fitting 100+ things in my hands and on my body while I train has become natural! Okay, maybe not 100+ but sometimes it feels like it!
So this article is just a back to basics look into how to effectively hold your equipment.
For more on why clicker training is so important click here
One of My Hardest Lessons
One of the hardest lessons I had to learn as a young trainer, was that I wasn’t always perfect and somethings take time WITHOUT dogs.
I had a friend tell me to work on my training without my dogs.
Sounds completely ridiculous right? Dog training minus a dog.
Most of us have some pride.
I used to have pride, then I started dog training!
Dog training teaches you humility!
At the time I couldn’t imagine embarrassing myself WITHOUT a dog, it is embarrassing enough when you can’t get it right WITH a dog.
But what I didn’t realize is that by not taking my friend’s advice, not only was I screwing up; but I was also screwing up my dog.
And, although we all make mistakes while training, if you continue to make the same mistakes you are messing up your training!
Click at the wrong time, consistently or frequently enough and your dog will be learning the wrong thing!
So when I was learning to maneuver a clicker and whenever I am working on my own footwork; I work without a dog.
Get All The Things You Need
So get all the things that you need, your training pouch, your treats (high level and low level is best), your toys, your clicker, and your leash and go outside minus your dog.
Imagine your dog is with you 😉 I know it seems silly.
If your dog is going to be heeling or walking reliably on the left, then you will need to think about having your left hand available for treats.
Because when you are both new to clicker training you are going to need to deliver the treat in a timely enough manner that it teaches the principles you are intending to treat. Eventually the timeliness of delivering the treat won’t matter, but in the beginning it is crucial to get it there fast!
So if the dog is on the left, your treats are in your left hand, then where will you hold the leash?
I prefer to hold the leash in my right hand.
I also like that having the leash in my right hand, keeps me from being able to strangle my dog with my left hand when he pulls forward.
If he comes out of position, I can lure him back into the appropriate spot with the treats in my left hand.
What About the Clicker
I personally keep the clicker in my right hand, with the leash.
I prefer the clickers with the big round buttons that come out in the middle, they are easier to click.
I can still hold the leash with most of my hand, while devoting a finger or two to the clicker.
You can also find clickers that can be attached to a lanyard and put around your neck.
You can even put it in your pants pocket with the button facing up, as long as your pocket will be tight enough to keep the clicker in place and you can find it easily when you need to use it!
I find keeping the clicker in my pocket or wrapped in a towel will make it less noisy.
You can also attach them to your wrist using a bracelet (I always have a harder time catching these when I need them).
And! And, the last is a company that is getting ready to make clickers that will be put on a ring that you can wear. For more information on the prototype and to be put on the list for when they are released for sale, click here.
I personally can’t wait until they do this so that I can easily free up some space in my palm. It will be simple to click this with another finger or flip my hand upside down and click it against myself.
So get all your stuff together and work out some training scenarios in your mind and with yourself and without your dog!
Once you have a plan, and have done some practice, it will be easy to integrate your dog!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.