Mar 20, 2010

Clickety Click Click

A word about clicker training. I had a vague idea of it before The Dog arrived but had absolutely no idea how powerful it is. I'm pretty confident I could get Molly to talk, walk and get a job just by using the clicker method.

I won't attempt to explain the ideas behind conditioning, as that would be a tad boring. But if you've never heard of Pavlov's dogs or behaviorism, have a look at Unfortunately conditioning has negative connotations and it's often thought that it must include punishments. But forget poor Alex in A Clockwork Orange, it doesn't have be like that.

Clicker training was first used for pigeons and after that, on all kinds of creatures, including bears and whales. I wouldn't recommend attempting to clicker train the bear you encounter in the woods, it might not work. The most famous (or best-selling) clicker trainer is probably Karen Pryor. Have a look at and you'll know what I mean. I actually have one of the clickers featured on the page and it's nice and subtle.
Wikipedia has summed up all the misconceptions about clicker training nicely, so if you're sat there huffing and puffing and bah humbugging, have a look at

The clicker can be used just for basic training or for something more specific. In our case, we are using it to teach Molly to (first) find the hypo scent and react to it. The idea is that in the future, she will alert us whenever Eli stinks of hypo. And that's what it probably is to a dog. Even though it is still a bit of a mystery what it is exactly animals can smell. It's under research and being taken seriously. Have a look at this article

But to put it simply, clicker training is about positive reinforcement. The dog does something that you want it to do, first by accident, later on purpose. You click the moment the wanted behaviour occurs and then follow with a treat. Sausage and cheese are Molly's favourite but it could be anything. And no, you don't end up carrying bits of liver around for the next ten years. Later on, the clicker is not needed and the reward can be verbal or just a pat. Though in Molly's case, there is no reason why we can't keep giving her the (tiny tiny) sausage pieces, especially to motivate her to wake us up in the case of night time hypos.

The equipment then. Pretty much every pet shop sells clickers, or you can just use a jar lid, like the ones they have on baby food jars. I bought one from the pet shop, the blue one in the picture. It was the quitetest they had but it's still bloody loud, hurting my ears and probably the dog's, too. I got another one from our trainer and this one has a softer click and it also clicks easier. This means I'm not late with my response, trying to jam the clicker button down. The black one in the picture is a Karen Pryor one and I recommend it if you want to buy one. And that mitt was knitted by my nana. That you can't buy.

And on other unrelated issues: it's almost April and there is still loads of snow. It's strange and annoying, I'm losing hope of ever seeing the ground again. See!

The snow also means Molly has access everywhere, being so bloody light she doesn't sink in the snow. Unlike me, trying to chase the dog with snow up to my thighs, swearing profusely. Spring and all the fresh smells make puppies go mad, humans (or me, anyway) just headachey and tired.


  1. Ootapa vain kun lumi sulaa, ja KURAkausi alkaa... -Maija

  2. Koirien kalossit tai kahluuhousut reiällä varustettuna? Meidän oven eteen tulee aina niin iso lätäkkö että pelastusliivitkin saattavat tulla tarpeeseen...