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How to Make Every Practice Really Count

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If you are participating in a canine sport, you and your dog work together as a team. You have been propelled through your many long practice days by the idea that “practice makes perfect.”

That’s not completely true. First, the original phrase is actually “practice makes mastery,” which is far more accurate and less daunting (but, I admit, lacks the alliterative appeal of its heir). The distinction between mastery and perfection is important, especially for those who see improvement as a lifelong process and the goal of perfection as deterrence to trying.

Second, the phrase has a cautionary twin, “practice makes permanent.” The takeaway is implicit; practice can make perfect but only if you know the right things to practice—the right stuff. The right stuff is exactly what you get at ClickerExpo 2018.

Here are three courses for you and your dog. I chose them because their insights, programs, and practices apply to dog/handler teams no matter your sport of choice: agility, obedience, rally, freestyle, and more. These courses are all brand-new for ClickerExpo 2018.

Make every practice really count. Join us at ClickerExpo in Irvine, California, or ClickerExpo in St Louis, Missouri.


The Orient Express

Hannah Branigan

What I noticed right away about obedience champ Hannah Branigan is that the same focus and disciplined thinking that made her a successful collegiate athlete make her training successful in canine sports. When Hannah suggested this topic for ClickerExpo, I loved how it reveals her eye for areas where a dog’s confusion can be reduced and his learning accelerated.

Hannah has observed that when they hear the click, many dogs orient toward the source of the reinforcement—their handler. But,

1. this reaction is not always optimal, and

2. typical ways of changing orientation can slow down training and cause frustration.

Instead, what if you train cues that tell dogs where to expect their reinforcement? For example, what if you start with a simple two-part distinction? Train one cue for “dog coming to the food source” and another cue for “food source coming to the dog.” If you think “Room Service” and “Take Out,” you start to get the idea.

Join Hannah to learn the power of, and procedure for, adding cues for reinforcement orientation to your training practices. You can also watch how to apply the skills in the Learning Lab! The journey to excellence is long. Get to where you are going faster with the “Orient Express.”

At the risk of sounding like an online shopping cart, I also suggest Spot Remover: Cleaning Up the Not Quite Right Behavior.


Right On Source: Clicker Training and the Nosework Team  

Sarah Owings

Nosework is one of those sports that get people super-excited. Dogs of all shapes and sizes, ages, and breeds, have the opportunity to shine at what they do best. That’s why Sarah Owings loves this sport. If you know Sarah, her deep appreciation for what a passionate hobby adds to life shines through in her teaching. But it’s her skill and her success story as a clicker trainer competing in this new sport that attracted my attention.

Clicker trainers entering the world of nosework sometimes encounter the well-intentioned advice that operant learning principles don’t apply to, and can even hinder, performance. In fact, clicker training brings great tools to the nosework team; think clear criteria-setting, the power of high rates of reinforcement, and the ability to apply back-chaining effectively, to name just a few.

Do you have an inkling that this sport might be for you? Come learn more with Sarah Owings, because her knowledge of nosework is... on the nose!

Hint: Come to the Session and watch how to apply the skills with Sarah in the Learning Lab, too


Progress Guaranteed: Never Get Stuck in Your Training Again

Eva Bertilsson, Emelie Johnson Vegh

What ClickerExpo attendees know to expect is nothing less than innovative training solutions from this dynamic teaching duo. They rock as clicker trainers—and they are awesome people! One of my favorite courses that will be led at ClickerExpo in 2018 is this one, because it addresses progress, a topic relatable to all.

We have all experienced situations where dogs stop making training progress. They do the wrong behavior, they freeze, or they just look at us, disinterested. Getting stuck isn't fun or helpful for you or your dog. Can you do anything about it? Absolutely! There’s an innovative twist in the training process that, when incorporated from the start, will prevent the dog from ever getting stuck. What's the secret? Train so that behaviors can be both spontaneous and on cue. At first this may seem paradoxical (spontaneous AND on cue?), but it is not. It’s the kind of insight that is just pure gold—and only available at ClickerExpo. Cheers to progress!

You might also like Self-Help: How to Be Your Own Coach


See more sport courses, and every course at ClickerExpo 2018 grouped by topic area. Show me all!

About the author
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Aaron Clayton is President of Karen Pryor Clicker Training and TAGteach International, and a member of the ClickerExpo Faculty.