Clicker training is a fun and simple method to train your dog anything from basic obedience to complex behaviour chains like filling the tumble dryer or fetching you a drink from the fridge. Clicker training allows dogs to use their brains to troubleshoot and problem solve. When you are using force-free methods, all training is trick training in a dog’s eyes. Whether you are teaching your dog to sit, down or jump through your arms, it’s a fun learning experience that burns a lot of mental energy and it builds your relationship.
A clicker is a small (usually plastic) box that fits into your hand and has a button or metal plate that is depressed to create a “click” sound. The click marks the behaviour that you want to capture from the dog. It’s essentially a way to tell your dog, “Yes! That’s what I wanted you to do!” while giving you time to deliver a reward.
There is nothing “special” about the click sound; it is merely a neutral tone. The magic happens when this tone is paired with a positive experience, such as eating a tasty treat or tugging a favourite toy.
The basic concept for teaching any behaviour is exactly the same:
*Dog performs behaviour > click > reward the behaviour*
It’s really that simple!
If you want to enrich your dog’s life, promote mental stimulation, encourage problem solving and create an unbreakable bond with your dog, start clicker training now! There are 100s of videos online to get you started. Here are a few of our favourite tricks:
Although the concept is simple, you can achieve more successful training sessions by following a few rules:
Eating faeces. An owner’s least and a dog’s most favourite behaviour!
Firstly, it actually is quite normal. As repulsive as it is to us, eating faeces played a role in how dogs evolved; when humans transitioned from hunter-gatherers to agriculture, human settlements arose. Our beloved canine’s ancestors began to approach these areas because dumps and latrines provided a stable source of food. So eating faeces is essentially part of their DNA. That said, it’s not a something that we want to encourage so it’s best to try to stop it.
There are a few reasons why your dog may engage in this behaviour:
Before trying to “train” the behaviour away, physical reasons need to be ruled out by a veterinarian. From the behavioural side, management and redirection are key. Adding nasty tastes to the faeces rarely works to stop the behaviour.
The first step is to clean up any faeces as soon as your dog eliminates. The second is to redirect to a more appropriate activity. There are tons of enrichment ideas on the Beyond The Bowl - Canine Enrichment group (
), which will help to elevate boredom and provide a more appropriate way for your dog to pass the time.
TOP TIP: If you make a huge fuss over your dog each time they go near a poo (i.e. No no no! Don’t eat that! Bad dog! Get back here!), this attention can reinforce the behaviour. Instead, calmly call your dog away and provide a brain game or chew toy (away from that area) to keep them busy while you clear away the mess.
All dogs have the potential to do damage when they bite. We need to teach them how to control the pressure of their bite by teaching them how to inhibit their bite. If your dog has good bite inhibition, the risk of injury is greatly reduced. Dogs learn this in a few stages:
When puppies are born they begin to suckle on their mom. Their teeth emerge at around 14 days and are very sharp. At this stage, if the put any pressure on the mom while suckling, she will move away, restricting access to her teat. The removal of milk teaches them to suckle gently.
As the puppies grow they play with their litter mates and spend a great deal of time mouthing each other. If they use too much pressure during play, the pup will immediately stop playing. The removal of play tells the puppy to be more gentle next time.
The last stage is for people to teach the puppy to mouth gently on human skin:
TOP TIP: If you have an adolescent or adult dog with a hard mouth, follow the same steps, but use heavy duty gloves to protect your hands (available from gardening centres and hardware stores). Hand feed meals one kibble at a time. If the dog tries to snatch, remove the food quickly for a few seconds. Only allow the dog to take a pellet when they are showing impulse control and are able to take gently.
The Adjustment period is essential when bringing a new cat or kitten into your home. Although cats are predators, they are also considered a prey species. This means they may be naturally wary in a new environment for fear of becoming another animal’s dinner. Therefore, their first response to threat is to run away and hide. Many cats go missing from new homes because they haven’t yet learnt where to return.
Your new kitty will transfer his scent onto new items through glands on his face and paws. This lets him know that the environment is safe. When he greets you with a rub (known as bunting) he’s saying, “You’re my human because you smell like me now.” How sweet!
There will naturally be a lot of excitement on Fido’s welcome to the family. It is beneficial to have everything you and he needs before he arrives to help make a smooth introduction to the household.
Secure the fences and gates of the property so that Fido can’t escape.
Restrict access to hazardous items and anything that he should not chew (e.g. swimming pool, poisonous plants, cables, remote controls, gardening equipment etc).
Research which breed types will fit with your family and lifestyle. For example a Collie type will not suit a family of couch potatoes, but a Great Dane might!
Contact a qualified positive reinforcement trainer in your area to arrange puppy classes or adult training sessions.
Address any behaviour concerns you have with current pets first; a new dog is very rarely a solution.
Familiarise yourself with the correct way to introduce dogs. Watch this video for help with stress free introductions: https://youtu.be/sZVJyE-KLS0
If possible, plan to bring Fido home over a weekend so that you can be at home to help him settle in.
TOP TIP: Provide Fido with:
It’s the big day! You’re super excited because you’ve been planning this for a while, but Fido doesn’t know what to expect so we need to set him up for success!
Avoid training at first, rather play pressure free games. Fido needs a few weeks to settle in first before he starts going for walks or attending any kind of training classes. While he’s getting settled, play games with him in your home or garden. This will reduce his stress and build your relationship!
This transition is exciting but can also be quite stressful, so don’t panic if he doesn’t eat right away or has a few tummy upsets. Consult your vet if you are concerned about the severity of symptoms.
If recently spayed/neutered Fido may be in some pain, which could make him sad, grumpy or even nippy. Be patient and gentle throughout the recovery period.
Dogs don’t arrive house trained—do not punish him for going in the “wrong” place if you have not spent time teaching where the right place is. Teach him where the right place is by taking him to this spot often and rewarding with delicious treats when he does his business in the designated toilet area.
Don’t take it personally if your new friend gives you the cold shoulder at first; give him time to learn that you are trustworthy.
For their safety, do not allow children to approach Fido, especially when he is sleeping/eating. Have them sit quietly with a nice treat and invite Fido to interact. He needs time to learn to trust little people too!
TOP TIP: Provide love and patience, don’t expect too much too soon. The rule of threes is quite easy to remember:
Dogs generally take at least:
Pet owners dread holidays and occasions that feature fireworks. These events usually send domestic animals into a frenzy of worry or a state of frozen terror. And although the absence of fireworks would be first prize, it’s an unrealistic expectation.
The good news is that there is so much you can do during off-season to prepare your pets for fireworks.
TOP TIP: Watch this video for more information: https://youtu.be/6fq8z8_3qpM
Research shows that pets can contribute to a child’s development physically by strengthening their immune system, and emotionally by creating an irreplaceable relationship. That said, safety needs to be the primary goal when mixing children and animals.
TOP TIP: Pet care is a great way to teach your child responsibility and life skills. Include your kids in providing food and water for your pets, taking them for a walk, and giving them a bath or brush. Although children should be included in these activities and encouraged to help out, the responsibility always falls on an adult to be a primary pet guardian.
While exercise is important for your dog, mental stimulation is just as important (if not more so) because it helps them to stay emotionally balanced and mentally active. Brain games, positive reinforcement training, and play are common practices used to resolve behaviour challenges in dogs. By providing your dog with mental enrichment, you can avoid frustration, boredom, destructive behaviour, repetitive behaviour, and protect your favourite couch from being ripped up in the process.
Top Tip #1: Don’t feed from a bowl.
Dogs actually prefer to “work” for their food, so a bowl is really a wasted opportunity for enrichment. Provide food in a treat dispenser, scattered on the ground, in brain games/problem-solving toys, or training. This will use up extra mental energy.
Top Tip #2: Scent training.
Dogs need to use their noses! Just because they can’t go sniffing around the park now, doesn’t mean you can’t bring the park to them!
Top Tip #3: Games
Play with your dog! Unstructured, no rules. Just play. This will reduce stress, yours, and your dogs’!
Does your cat sometimes “forget” or “refuse” to use their litter box? From cleanliness to compactness, many cats have a problem with the provided toilet area. Here are a few guidelines to follow that may improve kitty’s toilet time:
TOP TIP: Refrain from using household detergents containing ammonia; this is a constituent of urine so kitty will mistake your freshly cleaned items for his toilet! CO2 based cleaners are best at removing odours that even kitty can’t detect.