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If You're a Dog Owner, You're a Dog Trainer

I'm a dog trainer.

Sounds cocky, doesn't it? Well, I am a dog trainer because I'm a dog owner. That's right: if you own a dog, you're a trainer. WHAT you're training might not be the "right" thing, but you ARE training. Always.

When you get home after a day of work, if the first thing you do is excitedly greet your dog using a high-pitched voice, frenziedly petting him, you're training that dog "when my owner gets home, I'm to get immediately riled up!"

If you give your dog a treat every time you go into the kitchen, that dog will start LIVING in that room (or following you around hoping for your feet to carry you into that magical place).

Pretty simple stuff.

I've heard dog owners tell me, "well, I HAVE to play with her or she won't leave me alone." What? Really? Who's training whom here?

I might not be a professional trainer, but I do know obedience is obedience and the key to having a well-behaved dog is consistency and clear communication.

Since we humans don't speak the same language as dogs, it's important to have a good way to communicate to them when they've done something right. I've found the most effective method of training is the clicker – and before you roll your eyes and say, "that doesn't work," remember back to whether or not you've ever met my dog.

OH, right. The well-behaved German shepherd (yeah, she's not perfect in every aspect, but she IS a good dog). I trained her – correction, I TRAIN her – with clicker training. That's really just a "junk term" for operant conditioning, but for the sake of argument let's just call it clicker training.

If you know how to modify behavior by communicating with your dog via clicker, you can train anything the dog is physically capable of doing. Literally. Anything from teaching a dog to sit to teaching her to stand on a ball are within your grasp with this simple training – and communication – method.

And why use a clicker, you ask? Why can't you just mark the dog's behavior with some word of your choosing? Well, you certainly can – but dogs trained with clickers as markers learn much more quickly than dogs trained with voice markers. Why? Because our voices vary in pitch, tone, volume, etc. while the clicker is a consistent sound.

How do you begin? Well, first, you have to have a dog, a clicker and some form of "treat" the dog really loves (this can be anything from actual treats to a favorite toy to scratching a good spot; it depends on the dog). Then, once you've charged the clicker (i.e., taught the dog what it means), you can have at it.

Happy training :)