Actually, this modest little gadget can be valuable, not as a training tool but as an accurate way of communicating. The click doesn't sound like anything else. It's not your voice, it's not a word or a command, it's just a click. It communicates two facts to the animal: "A treat is coming" and "Something you did made a click happen." That may seem confusing to us, but animals understand it right away.
Ann Edie is blind. And, like many blind people, she used a guide dog to help her get around. When her dog suddenly died, it was a very sad thing for Ann. Not only did she miss her special friend, but she also missed his help. What would she do?
She could use her white cane, of course. And she could get another guide dog. But dogs can work for only a few years. So she came up with a different idea: "What about a guide HORSE?"
-Five-year-old SHIP program participant
Many clicker trainers have experienced it. You are training your dog, clicking and reinforcing for desired behavior, making swift progress toward your goal, and communicating with your animal at a level you never dreamed possible. Suddenly, it dawns on you that clicker training is so much more than a training technique; it is a powerful new way of interacting, a technology and a philosophy rolled into one-that can change lives.
The olfactory power of dogs has made headlines again this month, with new research supporting our canine friends' ability to "sniff out" the presence of cancer. While these findings continue to astonish many, one aspect won't surprise fans of operant conditioning: the dogs in this study were clicker trained.
Sheri Soltes is the Founder and President of Texas Hearing and Service Dogs. She pioneered positive training in the assistance dog industry. Recently, we spoke to her about her new training facility and her plans for the future.