One thing that makes dogs at a shelter more adoptable is obedience training. Training is also important for a dog's safety. A dog that won't come when called may end up getting run over, or in a fight with another dog, if off leash. We're lucky enough to have a spot for four dogs at the Best Chance Dog Training Program at the Larned State Prison, giving them a chance to become well-trained, and well-mannered, dogs. Unfortunately, we can't send all our dogs there, and don't have the staff or volunteers to train the dogs at the shelter. Fortunately, there's an easy way to train your newly adopted dog at home - clicker training.
What is clicker training? To start with, it's an easier, and often less time consuming, way of training your dog to perform basic commands and to encourage certain behaviors. Clicker training is also a terrific way to bond with a dog, whether it's newly adopted or been in the family for a while.
Clicker training is simple. To start, you have to “prime” the clicker so your dog associates a click with a treat or praise. It's best to get the dog used to tasty treats, although you should eventually transition to kibble and and praise. Once your dog associates a click with a treat, it's time to begin! Giving a command the dog already knows, like sit, is a great way to start. In time, the dog can learn new commands and behaviors. In addition to giving commands and clicking when the dog performs the commands, you can use clicks and treats when you're dog is doing something that you want him or her to keep doing. For example, if a dog is sitting quietly on the couch, that would be a good time to click and treat, which will encourage it to continue to sit or lie nicely and quietly on the furniture.
PCHS is attempting to use clicker training on the dogs at the shelter to increase their chances of a quicker adoption and to reduce behaviors that may make them seem less adoptable. Although this seems like a time-consuming endeavor, and it certainly can be, clicking when the shelter dogs are behaving in certain ways can take just a few minutes a day. The way we use it most at the shelter is when they are quiet in their kennels. To encourage dogs to sit nicely and quietly (because who likes a loud, rambunctious dog?), just walk by, click, and treat when the dogs are being quiet. Hopefully, this will encourage the dogs to bark less when they see new people. Although barking at visitors is not an inherently bad trait, most people struggle to understand the plight of a shelter dog and the barking and excessive energy can come across negatively to a lot of people who don't fully understand dog behavior, especially the frustration they experience in confined spaces.
Clicker training should be consistent but it doesn't have to take too much time. If you miss a few days of clicking, the dog won't necessarily go back to doing those unwanted behaviors. Most clickers have a rubber band attached so it can be easily and comfortably worn around the wrist, making it convenient to click when a dog is behaving they way you want it to. The timing of the click is vital; as soon as a dog makes any motion towards doing the desired behavior, that's the time to click! The timing of the treat, praise, or kibble as a reward is less important. Clicker training is easy once you know how it works. It not only saves time and money, but also increases the bond between human and dog. Additionally, clicker training provides mental stimulation for dogs, which is extremely important for their mental health. While it’s true that a happy dog is a tired dog, ideally from getting an appropriate amount of exercise, mental exercise is also vital. A dog without proper mental stimulation can become anxious, destructive, and depressed. Clicker training isn’t perfect but it can be a valuable tool for those without the time or resources to provide more intense training for their four-legged pal(s).
To encourage adopters to train their new dogs, PCHS is now including a clicker, information about clicker training, and a bag of treats in the adoption packet.