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Just for Shelters

Online Discussion with Karen Pryor: Clicker Training in the Shelter Environment

This discussion took place via Yahoo. People joined the Karen Pryor online Yahoo Group ahead of time or during the day, and could read the posts as e-mail or at the Yahoo Group site. Over 300 people participated.

At the end of the day we closed the site, planning to keep it available as a read-only archive. We ran into trouble with that, but luckily our webmaster, Greg Parsons, had maintained a file of all the e-mails as they arrived. So, working from that file, I've been able to prepare an abridged text version of the day's discussion. I removed advertisements, headers and footers, and off-topic letters. I also removed a few questions by accident; I hope the content of the answers will make the questions clear. Please accept my apologies for any annoying or serious omissions or errors that may have occurred during this process. Whatever got left out is entirely my fault.

10 Steps to Become a Clicker Shelter...On Your Own!

The very first steps in clicker training are exactly the steps that shelters need most: not full-blown obedience training, just some simple techniques to reduce barking, improve calmness and confidence in dogs and cats, and make animals friendlier and more oriented to people.

Here are 10 steps that will help you be successful even without a clicker teacher:

A Cooperative Patient Is Just A Click Away

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.

Implementing a Clicker Program in Your Shelter: An Overview

Clicker training is fun and easy to learn, for animals and people both. The clicker is a consistent signal, giving the animal confidence, no matter who is clicking. From a click and treat here and there shelter dogs can learn desirable behavior such as sitting instead of jumping up at the kennel door, or being quiet instead of barking. Dogs that have learned how to "make people click" tend to become calmer and more confident, and thus more adoptable. Even two or three extra minutes spent clicking and treating an individual animal can be time well spent.

Entering and Exiting Kennels Calmly

Kenneled dogs exhibit wild behavior upon entering or leaving the kennel because they need company. Our instinct is to respond to this need. It flatters us and triggers our sympathy. However, offering no response or actually withholding our entry is the kindest action you can take. Nobody has taught most shelter dogs how to greet people, so they greet us like they would other dogs - they touch, sniff, jump up, lick, try to wrestle and play. To be successful when adopted they have to learn self-control. We can give them a real start by how we handle our entry and exit from the kennels or outside pens.