Monday, March 01, 2010

Calm and Assertive Clicker Training

In the world of dog training, there are two camps that seem to be at war -- pure click-and-treat dog trainers and everyone else.

This last faction is sometimes reduced to "Cesar Millan" by clicker trainers who are new to dog training, but it in fact includes Barbara Woodhouse, William Koehler, and 2,000 years of successful dog trainers on six continents, including the two people who are most responsible for the creation of clicker training, B.F. Skinner and Bob Bailey.

Now here's the funny thing -- Cesar Millan and click-and-treat trainers are doing the same thing!

What? How can that be?

Millan never seems to use a clicker, while the clicker trainers never seem to talk about being "calm and assertive."


But have you noticed what a clicker actually DOES to a new trainer?

It makes them "calm and assertive!"

Let's start with Cesar Millan.

When Millan talks about being "calm and assertive," what he is really talking about is making fewer signals and making clearer ones.

The average dog owner that goes to Millan is the typical "American nervous wreck" who is perpetually trying to do five things at once -- pet the dog, change channels on the TV, instruct the kids in the next room, and eat a slice of pizza, all while "teaching" one dog not to squabble with the other.

For the dog, it's a bit like listening to five different radios on five different stations all at once. What the hell is going on?!

When Millan tells a dog owner to be "calm and assertive" the first thing that happens is that the owner becomes self-aware.

What? I am not being calm and assertive? I thought I was!

Suddenly the dog owner stands a little straighter and moves around a little less, and when they do move now it is with a little more purpose.

The owner starts watching Millan, who may instruct him or her to simply walk ahead with confidence while ignoring the dog.

Suddenly, for the first time in weeks, the dog's owner is not sending mixed signals to the dog. In fact, he is not sending any signals at all!

Peace at last!

What does Millan do next?

As a general rule, he takes the dog for a walk, and on that walk clear consistent signals are sent with the use of a leash. The owner is asked to not look at the dog and not to talk to the dog. If the dog starts to acts up, a corrective "leash pop" is sent down the leash, perhaps with a small "Tsssst," a neutral sound made with the mouth, but there is no looking at the dog or talking to the dog.

Only ONE simple signal is sent, and that signal says "we could use a little less of that."

If you watch Millan, you will notice that he has exquisite timing and can read most dogs like a book, often signaling "we need less of that" at the start of a dog getting wound up or acting out.

And what happens? Most of the time, a quick miracle!

Now, let's look at clicker training.

What does a clicker do when put in the hands of a new wanna-be trainer?

Think about it.

When a trainer has a clicker in hand, and is focused on getting the noise timed exactly right, is the trainer flailing around with his or her hands?


Is he or she talking?


In fact, they are not supposed to be moving at all.

And in clicker training, it is the clicker that does the talking, not the human.

Is the clicker assertive? You bet!

The clicker sends just ONE clear signal -- a signal that says "we could use a little more of that."

So what's the difference between the proper use of a clicker and a well timed and properly delivered leash pop?

Not much, other than the obvious --- one signal is saying "give me a little more of that," and the other signal is saying "give me a little less of that.

The main difference is when the two signals are used, and here we come to the REAL difference between Cesar Millan and pure click-and-treat trainers.

At the beginning of every show, Millan tells the audience exactly what he does for a living:

"I re-habilitate dogs, I train people."

Listen to that carefully. Millan RE-habilitates dogs.

In short, his job is to correct what is broken. He does not habilitate; he RE-habilitates.

You do not call Cesar Millan to train a new puppy.

You do not call Cesar Millan to train a young dog for basic obedience or agility.

You call Cesar Millan when your dog is a mess and is acting out in a dangerous or disruptive way.

Millan's specialty is not writing on a blank slate -- it's correcting the confused scribble that has been laid down -- often for years -- on dogs that have never been exercised, are poorly socialized, are phobic, and are deeply confused about their role in the household.

Read that last line again. Millan's jobs is CORRECTING.

You cannot correct with positive training.

To correct, you need to use a combination of extinguishing behavior (i.e. completely ignoring some actions and reactions) while sending a clear message that you want to see a little less of whatever bad behavior is being presented.

You can do a lot with extinguishing, but it can be slow, and it does not work in every situation.

Does Millan give positive rewards? Of course! Watch him! He loves dogs and he sends positive signals all the time, but they are not always food-based and they are never heaped on for no reason, and never given to an overly excited dog.

Millan may shift his body to put psychological pressure on a dog, or shift his body to take pressure off. Removing pressure is a reward.

Millan may pat a dog on the chest or head, offer it a little play time or a favorite toy, or even slip it a small piece of food. Millan is flexible.

Millan is a great believer in simply walking the dog. Exercise with the dog is a type of reward (time with owner), a type of remedy (activity soothes anxiety), and also a recapitulation of the pack hierarchy (the owner is reinforced as the pack leader who initiates, leads and ends activity).

What about the click and treat trainer? Here too rewards are flexible, though things tend to be a bit more rigid on the front end when the dog is just starting out and learning that the clicker is a marker and proxy for rewards to come.

As training progresses, however, a click-and-treat trainer will move from click-and-treat to click-and-sometimes treat. Rewards may shift from purely food to a pat on the head, a rub on the chest, or a toss of a favorite toy.

As a command or trick is learned, rewards become less frequent, with several clicks-and-no-treats followed by a "jackpot" of several pieces of kibble delivered all at once. As training progresses further, and the dog is making fewer and fewer mistakes, the period between jackpots may get longer and longer as the dog learns to "work for wages".

In essence the dog is "playing the game," the same as someone might play a slot machine. If you got a reward every time you pulled the lever at a casino, it would be boring. It's the surprise of the "jackpot" that makes the inveterate gambler keep coming back for more. The same is true for the dog.

Cesar Millan is a balanced trainer -- he uses all three parts of operant conditioning. As a consequence, I have very little doubt he could train almost any animal put before him.

Can a pure positive trainer do the same?

In most cases yes, but not in every case.


Simple: If you put a pure positive trainer in front of an adult African lion in full charge, that clicker is not going to help much!

It turns out that a clicker is a great tool if an animal is young, or if it is a blank slate and does not have mayhem on its mind. But it is not much use if you need to fend off a charging lion.

It is also not much use if you need your dog to stop common self-reinforcing negative behaviors such as chasing deer or chronic (i.e. not ameliorated by excercise) barking in the back yard.

For those kinds of problems, few things work as well as an e-collar in the hands of someone who has actually read the directions.

Which brings me to my final observation of the day: Training the trainer.

I always find it amusing to hear pure click-and-treat trainers act as if learning how to use a slip collar is so complex only a rocket scientist could figure it out.

"So many people use a choke chain wrong," they sniff, while never teaching the correct way, which takes all of 30 seconds.

How about e-collars?

Here too we hear a lot of tut-tutting. "Yes, they can be a lot of use in the hands of a professional, but ...." the voice trails off.

The suggestion is clear -- you are an idiot.

No one like you can ever be trusted to actually read the instructions that came with an e-collar, or watch the CD-Rom included in the package.

Run a chainsaw? Sure. Raise a kid? Absolutely! Cook your own food? Of course. But you are too stupid and sadistic to actually figure out how to use an e-collar or a slip collar without killing your dog.

But of course you can learn how to train a dog with a clicker! Absolutely! And never mind that you are going to have to read a lot to learn how to do it, and maybe even watch a CD-Rom or two.

Now isn't that funny? If you decide to clicker train your dog, you are suddenly deemed to be a reader. Pick another training system, however, and you are suddenly a knuckle-dragging illiterate who will never be able to do it right.

Now to be fair, a clicker in the hands of someone who does not read a manual is not going to harm the dog much. It might get fat, it might get confused, and it might not get trained at all, but it will probably not be harmed.

But was a dog ever harmed by someone who read Barbara Woodhouse's book on dog training? Not that I can find!

And so, to recap...

  • Rewards-based signaling is the core way of teaching young dogs or "blank slate" dogs that have no serious behavior issues, and it is the main way all dogs are trained to engage in new tricks.
  • Aversion-based signaling is the core way of teaching adult dogs that have embraced bad habits to cease those habits.
  • Both types of signaling require decent timing so that the signal (either a reward or an aversion) is delivered exactly when the activity occurs. The quality of the timing is, to some extent, the quality of the communication.
  • Regardless of what method of training is used (balanced trainers use both methods), the success of the trainer will soar if he or she is calm, is not flailing around with voice, arms and legs, and is sending only ONE clear signal at a time.


Viatecio said...

The crux in the arse of the clicker trainer is their analogy of $100 bills: if I sat in the same chair because I was given $100 to do so every time, I would continue to sit there.

That's all well and good until I see a $1000 bill on the ceiling.

I believe it was Koehler who said that a dog will continue to pursue Leg O Mailman despite manna raining from heaven in the form of treats. Trainers like to talk about "high-value rewards," which is a good concept, since every dog has something for which it will do just about anything. But there WILL come a point where that thing is not enough, and I hear it all the time: "He focuses on the squirrels and treats won't sway him," or "I try to to distract him from barking, but he just won't stop," and so on/so forth. Insert a well-timed, motivational correction and most of the time, the problem is solved.

You analysis of "calm/assertive" is spot on! It seems to also put a spotlight on the issue of timing: it's hard to time ANYTHING right when you can't dedicate your mind to it in the first place.

Mailey E. McLaughlin, M.Ed. said...

As to the harmfulness of clicker training vs. using aversive tools, I get your point, but I disagree a little.

The clicker folks want people to believe that the clicker is a benign, and always helpful, tool for learning. They want people to think it cannot cause harm, unlike those horrible "SHOCK" collars and pinch collars and other tools they deem abusive.

While it is unlikely that ill-timed use of a clicker will physically or emotionally harm a dog, it is not a benign form of training. It can cause confusion and shutdown in some dogs, and it can cause frustration behaviors. It can also lead to pushy, obnoxious dogs.

How? Well, "pure" clicker work is supposed to be "hands off." Clicker purists often believe that any hands-on guidance (e.g. using pressure to guide the dog into a sit or down) is at best, a crutch, and at worst, is abusive and forceful. "If you push the dog into position, he'll never figure it out on his own. And then you have to wean him off needing your force."

This is not true, as a rule. Guidance does not have to be forceful to work. And not only is it useful for human and dog, it is something many dog owners will do anyway. Why not teach the pet dog to accept it and yield to it?

If you are training for competition, or for the movies, or for some other professional venue, you need to wean the dog off external reinforcers and physical guidance, yes. But it's not as necessary in a pet dog.

Dogs that are trained with "hands-off" methods don't always learn how to control their frustration. If they have "soft" owners, they can become seriously pushy. Add to that the dog who decides that something in the environment is more exciting than the treat being offered, and then what do you do?

Now, one could argue (and the "hands-off" folks often do) that the dog was not trained well enough for that situation, and you need to go back and re-train it. Yes, I agree--but what do you do right that instant, when the dog is not performing the command you asked for?

Pet dogs are rarely trained to what Ian Dunbar calls "criterion." People just do not have the time to train Fido for every possible situation. They are not dog trainers! They are pet owners.

The "hands-off" approach may be great for competition dogs, or trainer's dogs, but it is unrealistic to think pet owners should never guide their dogs.

Using a combination of rewards for success, and calm corrections for mistakes, and guidance to know the difference, pet dogs often get trained very well.

Mailey E. McLaughlin, M.Ed. said...

Another thing that bugs me, as you mentioned, is the timing argument.

"Dog owners cannot be trusted to correct their dogs humanely, so thy should never be given the tools to do it. They will harm the dog! Corrections lead to fallout, and dog owners just can't figure it out."

That is what a lot of "positive" trainers proclaim.

Then they turn around and assert that these same dumb owners, who wouldn't know good timing if a clock fell on them, can manage a clicker and treats and a leash and control distractions and click and treat at just the right moment, for everything.

So, which is it? Are dog owners dumb, with bad timing, or can they learn it? I think, as you said, it's the latter...for most people. Sometimes, the clicker would be a perfect tool for the dog, but not so much for the handler. People learn differently, and they teach differently. I wish more clicker training "only" trainers would admit that some owners need a different tool.

I use a clicker to train tricks. I also used it a bit to sharpen my dogs' heeling attention. It's a fun tool, and for dogs that don't give up easily, it's fun to train with.

But using it to train the dog to stop a hardwired unwanted behavior? Not easy at all. It can be done, but there are so many more effective (and therefore humane) ways.

JL said...

Have you read Malcolm Gladwell's essay "What the Dog Saw" which describes Gladwell's observations of Cesar Milan working? I think it was originall published in The New Yorker, and it's the title essay of his latest book. As you discuss in this blog post, Milan has the ability to give very clear signals. Gladwell talks to some human trainers, and they discuss how coherent Milan is in his movements. He has exquisite control over his body and thus gives a consistent message, unlike the suburbanite going in 5 different ways at once.

sfox said...

"Dogs that are trained with "hands-off" methods don't always learn how to control their frustration. If they have "soft" owners, they can become seriously pushy. Add to that the dog who decides that something in the environment is more exciting than the treat being offered, and then what do you do?"

That's more or less the situation I found myself in, although I wouldn't consider myself a "soft trainer" since the one I worked with when my collie (first dog ever) was a puppy, mostly used the Sirius puppy training method, but pointed out that sometimes you need to be able to say "no" and give a correction. I had and have no problem with that.

I did end up with a dog who was pushy in the house and would blow me off when off-lead on walks if he saw something more interesting. The morning he ignored me, ran onto someone's property and right up into the face of a young child was the end. I knew I had to make a change and it took quite awhile before he accepted me as the leader on walks who he had to listen to.

What worked was to treat being off-leash as a resource that I controlled. If I didn't get immediate, cheerful compliance when I asked for it, back on the leash he went. I did use leash pops to tell him not to pull. along with saying uh-uh.

Watching the Dog Whisperer was very helpful since it made me aware of what I was doing and the energy that I was projecting. As I got better, more conscious control of myself (call it calm/assertive, emotionally neutral or whatever), I got better control of my dog.

Thank you for your emphasis on Millan as a rehabilitator and not a trainer. I'm so very, very tired of the Cesar haters conveniently not hearing that important distinction.

Gini said...

I usually agree with almost everything you say, which is why I (not a zombie, etc.) am writing re your essays on Cesar Millan. I have been following the debates about him and the concerns about what he does is not limited to clicker trainers, nor is it a disagreement about positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement and extinction. It is much more complex and includes on camera asphixiation of a dog, off camera harm of dogs and much, much more. Millan has done a ton of good. As you stated, just reducing all the confusing signals the dogs are getting makes a huge difference. So as much as I hate to disagree with you - this is not about clickers. I respect what you do, and recommend your blog to my students, so I have a vested interest in you staying as accurate and on point as you usually are. Gini Barrett, (not hiding!)

PBurns said...

Gini, this is NONSENSE. In fact, it is ACTIONABLE nonsense. Yes, you can be SUED for libel by Millan. Something to think about. You see, Millan has NOT harmed a dog, and he has NOT asphyxiated a dog. Sorry, this is pure bunk. And yes, it IS on video tape, which is why we KNOW it is bunk.

You should know this is bunk. This is a man who appears weekly on the National Geographic channel, and who is a public figure. NONE of what you have said is true, which is why you provide no links.

YES, I have seen a Husky rolled to the ground until it submits. So what? It worked! And no the dog did not die, is perfectly fine, and in fact is doing quite well. What would a "click and treat" trainer do with that dog? I can tell you: put it down.

But the world can judge for itself. This is the "horror" that folks like Gini point to >>

Watch this viode clip, and what you see is a VERY aggressive, dominant Husky, the size of a wolf.

This is a dog that is about to "go off" on the other dog (again!) as it has so often before.

This dog-on-dog aggresion is SO ROUTINE with this dog, that its owners took the time and trouble to call Cesar Millan for help.

Millan sees the dog about to go off, corrects with leash and a heel tap (not "a kick" as it so often described) and the dog tries to bite Millan and re-assert control through aggression as it has with every other human it has encountered.

Millan uses the slip chain to control the dog (which is more powerful than Millan without a slip chain).

What happens?

The dog is unable to seriousl bite Millan, and it eventually flips over and calms down. It is NOT "asphyiated". WATCH THE VIDEO TAPE. This dog is very clearly breathing, but it also (for the first time in its life) has realized it cannot bite its way into control.

Watch the tape. After the initial flurry of activity, and the roll, the leash is loose. Millan does not have his hand on the dog, but the dog is calm because (finally!) it knows it is over. This dog is no longer "leader of the pack" -- a human is. That human is Cesar Millan. What a relief for the dog!

Watch to the end. Is the dog calm? Are the owners pleased because they see a glimmer of hope (maybe they will not have to put this dog down?) You bet!

So sorry, Gini. You are simply WRONG. More NONSENSE about Millan. At least you are not anonymous. But guess what? You can be sued for libel.


MizShepherdist said...

Thank you, once again, Terrierman -- for another brilliant essay on what Cesar does right, and what so many people miss. Cesar is in the same business as those of us who rehabilitate dogs that come in through rescue. We work with German Shepherds, a very reactive breed who can go very wrong in a short time, but fortunately intelligent enough that they can also be set right fairly quickly.

These dogs have never had a day's worth of clarity in their lives. They didn't have the benefit of being "raised right" in a home dedicated to their well-being with an experienced dog handler. These dogs have no idea how to live inside their skin, they don't have any self-control, they don't know any boundaries or any respect for humans. When Cesar came along, those of us who rehabilitate dogs and manage unruly packs (not as many as Cesar, but often from 6-10 dogs) fresh out of the pounds and shelters finally had someone who could show us how we could do it just a little bit better.

The best thing about Cesar Millan's show on NatGeo is that he finally gave us a common language to share with the average dog-owners and prospective adopters about how to interact with their dogs to improve their lives. The best thing about your blogs is that you're giving us the explanation for why he works so well to share with those who think his methods are so outdated and primitive. And many otherwise balanced trainers who can't look beyond what they're hearing about him.

A tip of the hat to TheDoubtfulGuest about having a dog yield to the touch. There is nothing more frustrating than a "no restraint" dog who resists every effort to hold or reposition him by touch. Not by a correction, but by a simple touch on any part of a dog to move him into a more favorable spot for doctoring, or even readjustment in any number of situations. The current "hand's off" method of teaching is doing a huge disservice to our closest companions.

Well done, Terrierman. Bravo!

Eleanor Sobkowiak said...

I think that the fundamental difference between Cesar and clicker trainers is not their tools or behavior. It's their desired outcomes.

Cesar wants the dog in a calm, submissive state. He wants the handler as the leader and the dog as the follower.

Clicker trainers want their dogs activated and actually market their methodology as putting the dog in control.

It's an entirely different relationship. Are there overlaps? Sure. There's only so much that can be new under the sun in dog training.

K9connection said...

I certainly appreciate the effort to remake Mr. Millan's training methods and philosophy in the image of positive reinforcement marker-reward training. After re-reading the post several times so that I might craft my comments succinctly and fairly, I realized that there was so much misinformation and revisionist history in the piece, that my efforts to bring factual information into the mix would likely fall on deaf ears. So I applaud the desire to be more like "clicker" trainers, alas there is no short cut. It requires an on-going effort and a willingness to reassess one's philosophy and educational background, as well as a great deal of practice and refinement of one's skills.
There is no assertiveness involved in "clicker training". There is calmness, empathy, sensitivity, patience, excellent observational and mechanical skills, excellent timing, self-awareness, planning and knowledge of criteria setting, exquisite knowledge and appropriate utilization of canine ethology/canine body language and signals, knowledge of nutritional factors, and ultimately a willingness to give up the "Yank and Thank" force-based philosophy of training once and for all.
By the way, for the record, the "Tssst" sound Mr. Millan employs is nothing but a conditioned punisher created classically off-camera by pairing it with the shock inflicted by a shock collar. Ever wonder why the audience is never allowed to see him creating it? I wrote asking about this issue and they admitted that this does occur and that is is an essential part of his training methodology, but that it should only be used by a professional like Mr. Millan.

PBurns said...

K9connection you are simply a typist. You have said NOTHING. And you know why? Because you have nothing to say!

Apparently you know little or nothing about operant conditioning. You seem to think training a dog is dependent upon some sort of metaphysical mumbo jumbo. Sorry, it's not. It's operant conditioning. You do not need any of those wonderful adjectives you conjugated and which, no doubt, make you feel very warm, fuzzy and "special" inside. If you studied Skinner you would know a machine taught his pigeons, and to this day machines teach monkeys, dogs, and yes even humans.

All training is about timing and all training is about calmness. Machines are such great trainers because their timing is perfect and they are always calm.

And NO, all training is not about rewards. This is Skinner 101.

But, of course, you know nothing about training, do you?

One thing for sure, you are a LIAR. You have never talked to anyone associated with Cesar Millan. Not once, ever. You are a pretender and a liar and that is why you hide behind anonymity. Go away -- we do not salute anonymous cowards, trolls, and zombies, and you are a trifecta of all three.


sfox said...

As far as dogs being "asphixiated", I agree with Patrick. It's bunk. The dogs are doing all the work. I've experienced it myself with shelter dogs. And thank goodness I'd watched Dog Whisperer so I knew what was going on.

The shelter dogs had learned that excitement led to getting out of the kennel because people would go into the kennel and put a collar and leash on them when they were excited.

They also knew that they were in charge because they went out every door first, dragging the walker behind them.

I did none of the above. What happened the first time and succeeding times was that I would go in the kennel and simply stand until the dog was calm. Then I would put the collar on. Excitement.

Once they calmed down, I would put the leash on. Excitement.

Once they were calm and sitting, I would step to the kennel door and the dog would try to charge past me. I blocked them with my legs, essentially saying, non-verbally, "no". First time a lot of them had ever been told no.

And that's when the explosion would happen. Suddenly I was in an episode of Dog Whisperer with a dog having a major twisting, turning, jumping temper tantrum at the end of the leash. I had to hold it up as straight as I could to keep them from getting tangled in it and maybe injured, but not so tight as to affect their breathing.

So, while I can see how it might look from the outside to someone who hates and resents Millan anyway, my own experience is that the dog is doing it all and is control of the slack.

Once they were done, then we could go for a walk, me first. If they still tried to go out the kennel door first, I took the leash and collar off and left. No walkies with me that day.

Rewarding calm instead of excitement did wonders for the dogs. Since they go with what works, they caught on pretty quickly.

The problem was the obtuse walkers who didn't make the connection that they were causing and reinforcing the unpleasant behavior and were also too impatient to wait out the drama.

Remember, we're not talking average house dog training here, but trying to get shelter dogs who are untrained brats, mostly adolescent males, to listen to a human for the first time in their lives. Calm dogs who can calm themselves and comply get adopted a lot faster than the nut cases.

Gini said...

Interesting how you chose to misread my comments. I did not say that Millan had asphixiated a dog. I said that the debate was more complex than your limited focus on clicker trainers - who to my knowledge have not been the leading critics of Millan. I cited the example of that specific incident as a topic that is part of a broader, more complex debate. Sorry I am not able to devote hours to reciting every detail of the debate in my comments as they are extremely extensive and readily accessible to anyone. What I was expressing was my disappointment in you and my surprise that you were enraged at clicker trainers - when they really are not a significant part of this public discussion. I have not studied the video of this dog, as I am not qualified to do so. But others who are, have. They are not clicker trainers and are a very important part of the debate. I am not a clicker trainer either. I am simply someone who actually looks at all sides of issues in their complexity - and while I usually see you as someone who also looks at complexity, I was disappointed when I didn't see that in this discussion. I will say that this experience has given me greater insight into your approach.

PBurns said...

Gini, your earlier comment speaks for itself and it is there for others to read.

Your goal in that comment was simply to pass on the lie that Millan is abusive to dogs -- it had no other purpose.

As for clicker training, I am not "enraged" at them. Not in the slightest. I have little doubt I have been at clickers longer than you have. They work well, and I have said so. In fact, I have said so in this piece!

What I do not tolerate, however, are blinkered liars, and a part of the clicker community has certainly gone that way, hasn't it. You sound like you are new to clicker training and are a bit confused (and excited) because there might be "controversy."

Well, welcome aboard, but in fact there is no controversy and there is not no debate: What Cesar Millan does works.

And NO it it not training for agility, or puppy training a dog to walk on a leash.

It is EXACTLY what he says it is: "I re-habilitate dogs, I train people."

And how does he do it? Operant conditioning, same as everyone else.


SC said...

Gini, I see in your post that you are not a clicker trainer. Because of that, you can probably be forgiven for commenting, when there are things you don't know. However, you make a large point about how you research and find all sides of an issue.

Although I tend to use many different types of training techniques with my dogs, I have been connected to the clicker community for a number of years, through various lists.

You won't find much discussion of Caesar on those lists, anymore, largely because he is off-topic and has generated as many flame wars as any other subject on those lists. (E-collars, etc...) However, early on, there was a good amount of discussion, and a lot of negative opinions posted. Some opinions seemed like professional jealousy, and others were philosophical disagreements. Many expressed dismay at the effect they felt Caesar was having on John Q. Trainer. To this day, I know of trainers who are very vocal about their philosophical disagreements with Caesar, and as things come up, publicly express their opinions.

Of course, because of the fractured relationship between clicker-trainers (soft-touches) and other trainers (dog-torturers), there is little communication across the gap, that I see. When it is, it's usually by way of rhetoric. So, as it is, clicker-trainers mostly talk amongst themselves.

MegF said...

Thank you so much for a balanced article on both clicker training and Cesar. I use both types of training when working with dogs. I do extensive rehab as a rescuer and tend to get the dogs no one else wants. I have had everything from fearful dogs to dog fighters and everything in between. All dogs are "Cesarized" in my home in that they receive rules, boundaries and limitations. They are not allowed to roam my house at will, they must wait for food, follow me on walks without pulling etc. Excessive dominance is corrected. They are rewarded for behaviors I want. All training such as come and sit are reward based training. Any behavioral issues however are correction based. I've yet to be able to stop a dog fight with treats, yet I can not only stop one, but keep it from every happening again using Cesar's types of behavior modification. I have some of the best behaved, calm and friendly dogs in the foster system and I will continue to use whatever method does not harm the dog, including e-collars or other type of collars to gain control as necessary.

Unknown said...

What a wonderful blog! I love how you intertwined what many people view as two very different modes of training. I agree they go hand in hand. I went through a clicker training obedience class with my hound when she was 7 months old. By then she already knew all the commands, except heel. I found she really took to the clicker training so I still use it, almost 7 years later. However, through that entire course we could never master the heel. When my hound was 3 years old I read Cesar Millan and from that very first walk, my hound walked at my side (not perfectly the 1st time, but she got it right away). The difference? My attitude. I walked with confidence and with the thinking that "I am the leader, I lead, my dog follows". What I couldn't accomplish in over a month with just the clicker I perfected within 2 days, all because I learned how to think like a Pack Leader.

Peter Apps said...

K9connection said (about clicker training)....

"There is calmness, empathy, sensitivity, patience, excellent observational and mechanical skills, excellent timing, self-awareness, planning and knowledge of criteria setting, exquisite knowledge and appropriate utilization of canine ethology/canine body language and signals, knowledge of nutritional factors,....."

Does the average pet owner have all these desirable qualities ? I doubt it very much. In the training classes that I used to give most of the people had a maximum of two each. If they had been K9connection paragons they would not have been in a beginners' training class in the first place.

Real pet owners need training methods that real, imperfect, people can use, and that produce real results in terms of improved dog behaviour within an acceptable time frame. Given the almost infinite combinations of dogs and owners the key to success is versatility, not dogma.

Maxine said...

There is nothing wrong with assertiveness. And just because someone isn’t entirely force free doesn’t mean they are “yanking and cranking”. That is a false statement based on a vast overgeneralization. Dog training should not be as hard as most pozzies make it out to be. Do what works without having a detrimental effect on the dog.

Sandeep said...

Clicker training is so essential these days because our own voice can vary in pitch and dogs want to hear the same cue words every time. Clicker is going to sound the same every time and hence it should be used in dog training sessions.