Our Training History (or Why We Switched to Clicker) By Gail Tamases Fisher
In 1997, about a year after we began our conversion to clicker training, we were hosting a clicker seminar. A participant who used my training books and had been to my seminars, told me she was there to learn about clicker training because she had heard a rumor that I had changed to it. In a grave and serious tone, she said, "I know going public wasn't easy for you." I had to laugh - I'd been "outed": "Ohmygosh, Gail Fisher's a clicker trainer!"
In the beginning, it seemed like a daily occurrence that I would talk to someone who said, "You're switching to clicker?! All those articles, books, college courses, seminars and lectures-years espousing your training 'method'-you're chucking it all?" My response was simply, "I had no choice. Seeing how well clicker training works, I couldn't not change."
Early in my dog training career - now nearly 30 years ago-as I learned different ways to get a dog to "obey", I discovered that virtually every approach I tried, read about, heard about or observed worked. Correction-based training works. Cookie training works. Command-based training works. Lure training, drive training, who-knows-what training-they all work. So how does one discover or choose what "method" is "best"?
At first, I trained the way I had been taught, changing to methods I felt more comfortable with as I learned more. But as I studied about dog training and instructing - teaching others train their own dogs - as I studied learning theory and how dogs learn, I solidified my principles and a philosophy of training. Simply put, my philosophy is to seek out and use training techniques that meet three criteria:
- A technique must be consistent with how the dog learns.
- It must be fair to the dog and do no harm.
- Finally, it must be understandable to, and be willingly performed by the average dog owner - that is, it cannot rely on exceptional timing, talent or innate dog-handling skills.
I could not remain true to my philosophy and ignore clicker training. And the more I use clicker training, the more I learn and train dogs with it, the more convinced I am that this is dog training and communication as it should be.
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