Two Opposing Views on Clicker training

So I was over here at the DogSport Network, reading this article on Clicker training.  He pointed me to these two articles.  Pro Clicker training, and Con Clicker training.

I have to admit, I am on the fence with the whole clicker training and positive only training that seems to be kicking around the dog training fields lately.

I do like with positive only training the whole breaking things down into steps to help the dog understand what you want him to do.  I like that.  Sometimes I think things are broken down too much when with some hands on helps the dog gets smaller steps introduced a bit more quickly, but The whole breaking things down into manageable pieces makes sense to me.

I dislike with clicker training the fact the most people can’t “click” at exactly the right time.   Therefore they are not rewarding what they think they are rewarding.  and that to me is a problem.

I dislike with positive only training that the advocates don’t want any punishment or “negative reinforcement” used at all.  I still remember my dog agility trainer correcting me for saying “ACHH” to my dog when she was about to do something in training class that she wasn’t supposed to.  I kept her (my dog) from making an error in judgment, got her thinking on a different track and she learned.  So I still can’t quite figure why that was so bad to do.

A tap on the nose is wrong, a verbal correction is wrong and dogs take forever it seems sometimes to learn something.

NOW>>>this caveat…some trainers use an excessive amount of “negative reinforcement”.  that to me is also unacceptable.  Ear pinches, hauling a dog up by a leash, tossing a dog across a room, locking a dog up if it doesn’t do what you want when you want it to…. that’s a bit above and beyond.

BUT a push on the dog’s bum to help it learn to sit.  A leash pulled down the ground to encourage the dog to lay down.  A tap on the side to get his attention when he’s following a squirrel and not listening.   Actually putting your dogs feet on top a dog walk plant because he’s scared to approach it (but not forcing him to go over).    What’s wrong with this?  What’s wrong with ACH!!!  or NO! when a dog is making a poor decision?

In a nutshell…I see the good in both and wonder….so just what is so wrong with melding the two together?   Encourage the dog more than punish him.  Break things down into smaller pieces if the dog just isn’t getting the bigger picture.   Tell the dog when it’s made a wrong decision and help it think through what a better decision would be.  Praise, treat, reward, play with your dog.  But use good common sense.

Use what works with your dog, but don’t let your dog be the boss.  It’s your house, you get to make the rules.  It’s your dog sport, you have to enforce what is allowable in your dog sport.  Can’t have a lungey barky dog?  well then either don’t play, or teach your dog better manners.  Can’t have a dog chasing the neighbours cat home…well then teach your dog to stay home OR tie him up.

Train your dog in a manner that doesn’t break his spirit and you will have a good dog companion and if you do dog sports, a dog more willing to work with you.


7 thoughts on “Two Opposing Views on Clicker training

  1. Pingback: dog training » Two Opposing Views on Clicker <b>training</b>

  2. Pingback: Two Opposing Views on Clicker training | The Quick Pet Stop

  3. I pretty much blend… and the examples you gave of negative reinforcement are things I do, too. I am a clicker trainer and< i think, I have pretty darn good timing when it comes to clicking the behavior I am marking.

    Sometimes a dog does have to learn it is unacceptable to, say, bark in a crate for 5 hours. Some of the major positive people just let the dog whine, and hope it’ll go away. Personally I can’t afford to lose that much sleep and I will use the evil water squirt bottle in order to ‘correct’ this behavior. Adding a negative so the behavior will stop.

    I never advocate ear pinches (never did obedience before now because I wouldn’t do it) hitting, yelling, or getting angry. Yes I have been known to get angry but I know it’s time to stop, because dogs don’t learn from anger, nor do they learn from excessive punishment. They only learn to be scared.

    Anyway, good thoughtful post. 🙂

  4. I have to admit, I’m not a good person for training a very soft dog. Very soft dogs require a particular style of training that I currently in not in possession of. Our old dog was one of those, but I came to him late in life. he had to learn that just because I raise my voice and am loud (even when very happy) doesn’t mean that he did anything wrong. It was a difficult thing for him to learn and a difficult thing for me to learn to moderate my voice when around him…particularly if I wanted him to learn anything. He considered me the purveyor of all things evil. 🙂 But I liked him none-the-less and he also knew I was the purveyor all food and cookies too! 🙂 he was a dog that I think a good clicker trainer could do TONS of stuff with, but not a dog for all types of people. NOT a forgiver. I prefer dogs with a good dose of forgiveness wrapped into their psyche’s. 🙂

  5. I read through your article Laurie, but I remain unconvinced. I don’t see a “command” (or as you might say a cue) becoming a threat. A command is given, dog makes a move to do the wrong thing, gets a “stop and think about this a bit more” comment, rethinks her actions and then executes the right move, gets commended for doing so. Not a threat, an aid in learning. Saves the dog a lot of missteps before getting rewarded for correct action.

  6. Hi. Thanks for taking a look at the clicker post on my site! I agree with what you are saying here and I think your opinion is quite valid. In fact, if you really take a look at what compulsion is
    (, it comes in an infinity of forms, techniques and intensities. Saying ‘no’ or ‘achh’ is a form of compulsion, as is tapping the dog’s behind for the sit. Each dog is different, with different drives and temperaments, so any kind of gimmick training is going to be limited in its success. Common sense rewards and corrections with appropriate timing are the basis of all of these ‘systems’ anyway, yes? I say we forget all of the psychobabble and just train our dogs!!

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