Most pet owners are familiar by now with clicker training. Versions of the training, also known as operant conditioning, have been used to teach commands to dogs, cats, dolphins, and a number of other creatures. And now trainers have another use for it—controlling animals during visits to the veterinarian, or a stay at a shelter.
I have used clicker training with great success in the past, particularly with a dog of mine that had dominance aggression. It truly changed his life.
However, I now have a dog that I believe was badly treated while training. I don't know his history because he is a rescue, but when I tried teaching him that the clicking sound was a good sound, I basically trained him to hate hot dog bits. He now shrinks away if I offer him a hot dog piece, even without the clicker. The sound of the clicker made him run and hide from me and refuse to come out for at least an hour. I don't know what he associates with this noise, but clearly it is not good.
If the learning is sufficiently shaped and reinforced to the best it can be, and reliability is achieved at this level; and if, then, this standard is attached to a new "performance cue", then there is no reason for the dog to give a reduced quality or reliability in show circumstances unless the stress level has gone beyond the dog's self management. Even then asking the dog for a strong, favourite behavior can reduce the stress significantly.
I have a 8 month old Chocolate Lab who we cannot get to settle down when other people or animals enter the picture. She obeys pretty well the first time or two using the clicker and treats, but then totally ignores us and goes her own way - jumping on people and running off with whatever distraction (i.e. other dogs) come her way. She seems to have gotten wilder in the past month. We take her for at least 1-1/2 hour hikes/runs everyday (sometimes twice a day) so she is not a dog desperate for exercise or company. She just likes to jump and play - to everyone's dismay. She will only work with me and the clicker/treats for short time spans - then does her own thing. When we're so far from the house (on these walks) it's a dilemma how to "positively" deal with her so she "gets it". Any advice? I don't want a juvenile dilinquent dog. Is 8 months too late to break these habits that have arisen?