“ Brand: Pets At Home / Type: Training „
I got my Black Lab Lenny a few months back when a friend of friend bought him as a young pup only to discover her one year old daughter was very allergic to him! After giving it a lot of consideration I decided I would give him a new home and I'm very glad I did! Unfortunately, even for a puppy, Lenny is a bit of a hand full. My Greyhound Oscar sailed through puppyhood with relative ease. He was quick to house train, mostly calm and I never had any problem with him chewing anything. Lenny on the other hand, is the opposite. He's always charging around and barking, he's constantly knocking things over with his what appears to be permanently wagging tail, he's been difficult to house train and every time I leave him for five minutes he's managed to chew something up to the point where it's destroyed.
I am partially to blame for this though. Lenny is very, very cute and I am very, very soft. In the beginning I had an 'aww you've tore up my post before I've had chance to read it. That's so cute! Here have a treat' sort of attitude which obviously does not go well with a naughty puppy. I find it impossible to shout at him because he just looks up at me with his big, adorable eyes and long, floppy ears and just makes me feel guilty! Despite this, enough was definitely enough. If I wanted Lenny to grow up into a well behaved adult dog I had to start to putting my foot down and teaching him right from wrong now, whilst he was still young.
I did, at first, look at dog trainers. It seemed daft to throw all that money away though when I could do it myself. After all, Lenny is a Labrador so, in theory, should be easy to train. So I decided to give it a go myself first before paying someone else to do it. That way I got to bond with my puppy a little more and find out what works best for him for future reference (plus save myself some money)! During my time watching copious amounts of animal related documentaries it seems everyone uses clicker training whether they're training a dog or an orang-utan! It certainly seems to be a tried and tested method which the vast majority of professionals swear by hence why I decided this would be the method I would use.
The clicker I bought was this Pets at Home one. Whilst browsing in store I saw a number of different ones but I thought a clicker is a clicker and there's no point in paying over the odds. This one cost me £3.50 which seemed like a reasonable price. You do pretty much only get the clicker though. Some of the others offered bundles which contained treats, treat bags, DVD's on how to use the clicker etc but I didn't feel I needed any of those extras thus went for the cheap option.
The clicker is vacuum packed on a green cardboard backing containing the Pets at Home logo, name of product and a picture of a yellow lab. The clicker is placed in the centre of the bottom of this packaging and peeling off the plastic covering reveals it with ease. You do also get a little instruction booklet which guides you on how to use your clicker to teach your pets to sit, stay, lie down, roll over and bow. I have to admit I didn't pay too much attention to the booklet, Lenny already understood sit it was just getting him to stay sitting for longer than 0.2 seconds and the only other 'trick' I was really interested in getting Lenny to do was to stay. I didn't want a Dog who would perform well at Crufts, just one who would behave.
Nevertheless I did give the book a look through and all the instructions are written clearly and are informative. There's a useful introduction to clicker training in the beginning of the leaflet which made everything clear even for someone like me who had no idea what she was doing. I did use the method described in the leaflet to teach Lenny to stay which worked perfectly so it appears an effective guide. I do think it would be a more useful guide if it explained how to teach dogs to do more useful things for the everyday pet owner though. I don't need Lenny to be able to roll over on command, I do need him to, for example, 'leave it' on command though.
The clicker is black and oval shaped measuring about 7cm long and 3cm wide. At the top of the clicker is button which clicks when pressed and the bottom contains a loop so the clicker can be attached to clothing, keys etc which is extremely useful when taking the clicker out and about. I've been taking Lenny to a nearby field and letting him off of his lead where we have more space to practice.
The button needs a firm press to click which I like. It's still easy to click when intended but difficult to do by accident which is good as it is vital your dog is given a treat whenever this is pressed regardless of the click being deliberate or not. Something which is quite difficult if you accidently 'click' when you don't have a treat to hand. The clicker is easy to hold and very light and portable.
I have found this to be an excellent training tool and Lenny is quickly picking things up. First steps are to get your dog to associate the click with a reward thus for the first few days I was simply clicking and treating and, in no time, Lenny was running over from wherever he was whenever he heard a click waiting for a treat so that bit clearly worked!
In just over a month I've gotten Lenny to stay, wait (he no longer shoots through doors the moment I open them) and even fetch. His behaviour has improved significantly and he's far less stressful now! I still have plenty of lessons in the pipe works and I'm really enjoying clicker training him. Not just because of the obvious positive results but because we both seem to be bonding with one another and enjoying one another's company in the process. This is definitely why I think positive reinforcement is a much better way of training an animal than, say, giving him a tap on the nose every time he is bad (something my Mum is still convinced works best).
Whilst it is easier to clicker train a puppy I've also been making progress with older dog, Oscar. He's now sixteen months so is pretty much all grown up now! Oscar is a very well behaved dog who needed very little training though. The only thing I wanted to sort out was his fear of having his nails clipped. I've no idea why but he just would not let me clip his nails. The vet even refused to do more than one paw because it was stressing him out too much. So I did a search to see if it were possible to combat this problem with a clicker, turns out there was! Progress is a lot slower with Oscar but we are getting there. Whilst I haven't made the advanced move of actually clipping his nails yet I have got him to be calmer when he sees the clippers and even let me touch a nail or two with them. Something which a couple of weeks ago was completely out of the question.
Clicker training has proven to be a really effective method for me and my dogs and I'd highly recommend it. This clicker has proven to be an efficient tool for doing so, I've been using it daily for a couple of months now and had no problems with it. Whilst the training guide which comes with it is a little rubbish in terms of commands it teaches, there's plenty of free resources on the internet to help you so paying more for a clicker with better information seems a bit pointless to me. For £3.50 I don't think you can wrong with this.
N.B. If you are looking at clicker training your dog I would thoroughly recommend www.clickerlessons.com. The website offers loads of useful information, hints and tip for training your dog and gives instructions for teaching more useful lessons to an everyday dog owner like 'come when called', 'leave it', 'nail clipping' and 'loose lead walking'. It's been an excellent source of information for me and has certainly saved me money I would have probably otherwise spent on dog trainers.