Clicker Training: What is it and why does it work?

A clicker is a small device that makes a clear click-click sound when its button is depressed.  It is a tool we use to teach your dog how to do ‘new stuff’ (learn a new skill) and once the ‘new stuff’ is learned, the clicker is put away. It is not something you must use for the life of your dog in order to get him/her to do things.

Your dog learns that the clicker is valuable to him/her because of its association with the arrival of a reward. We teach the dog about the association just by clicking and rewarding several/many times.

A cool thing about clicker training is that the dog quickly becomes a willing participant in the training process.  It’s a two-way conversation and it’s awesome to watch.

We organize things (lure to get the behaviour/catch the behaviour when it occurs) so that we can click and reward.  Meanwhile, the dog is actively trying to figure out how to make us click so they may get rewarded.  They usually try to make that happen by repeating the last skill (eg..sit) that got them rewarded. 

For more in-depth information about clicker training, I encourage you to check out  There is a wealth of information there and some excellent video’s to see.

Happy training!

Lynn Hyndman

What Have You Got In Your Mouth? Getting dogs to stop grabbing your things

It’s true that dogs and puppies alike view those things that are currently in their mouths as theirs, and only theirs.  Sure, dogs will play tug-of-war together with a rope or stick, but by and large, if they have that tasty bone or that special toy, it’s theirs until they leave it.  That’s Dog Etiquette.

Teaching our dogs that some things fall into the “Not for Dogs” category is important.  Take the TV remote for example…actually, right now, the puppy’s got it! It’s on the list of “Not for Dogs”.  Now, we could go the route of chasing the puppy around (what fun for the puppy!), cornering the puppy (not so much fun) and removing the article which now is decorated with teeth marks and saturated with dog slobber. And yes, we’ll probably have to do that but, how much better would it be if you were able to say “Give” and the puppy dropped it.

How do you relieve your dog of something in her mouth when she’s intent on keeping it?  By practicing in advance.

Dr Ian Dunbar, veterinarian, animal behaviourist and dog trainer states in an article: Practice taking away bones, toys and other objects from a dog before the inevitable incident with that essential TV remote control or your cell phone.  Offer the dog a boring toy, something not a favorite.  Once the dog has grudgingly accepted the toy, say, "Thank you," offer a tasty treat with one hand and take the toy with the other.  Once the dog has eaten the treat, give back the toy, saying "Take it."  Repeat this with more valued objects, such as balls, squeakies, and Kongs, moving up to very valued objects, bones.  When working with more highly valued objects, the attractiveness of the treats must increase accordingly, so that no matter how valuable the object the dog has in its jaws, you always have more valuable and tastier treats in your paws.  A dog must develop the confidence that giving up a valued toy or bone does not necessarily mean it's the last of it he ever sees.  On the contrary, the dog learns, "Thank you," means the owner wants to look after the dog's toy (how considerate!) while the dog eats the tasty treat (how generous!) and then, the owner wants to return the dog's toy (how honorable!)

Practice this dozens and dozens of times under different circumstances.  Have other family members practice as well.  It will ultimately serve you well when your pup has picked up that forbidden object and readily puts it down again when asked.

Happy Training!

Lynn Hyndman

Kangaroo Dogs: When dogs jump up!

Kangaroo Dogs!!!! Jump! Jump! Jump!

We all know about them; we’ve probably met them, those four-footed friends of the canine variety that greet us enthusiastically with front paws on our best clothes.  It’s not too bad if those paws are small, aren’t muddy, and those nails are short but, let’s face it; it’s much better for your clothes and much less embarrassing for the dog owner if all four paws are kept on the ground.

So, for all you embarrassed dog owners out there, here are some tips to help with your Kangaroo Dog.

 Set up a Sting Operation!

First, stock your pockets with tasty treats.  Next, encourage your dog to jump up on you.  Do whatever it takes to get those front paws up off the floor.  As soon as those paws leave the floor, say firmly those words you would normally use to stop behaviour of your dog.  It could be something like, “Ack! Ack!” or “No!” or “Off!!”  Turn sideways away from your dog and stand perfectly still while keeping a weather eye on his antics.  At some point, he will stop jumping and, as soon as those front paws are on the floor again, reward with a “Good Dog!” and give a treat from your pocket.  If your dog wants to help you deliver the treat by jumping up again, wait until his feet are back on the floor to reward.  Then, encourage him to jump again doing whatever it takes like slapping your legs or clapping your hands and as his feet leave the floor, repeat the “Ack! Ack!” or whatever words you have chosen.  Turn away while watching and reward for feet on the floor.  Repeat the exercise many times.  You’ll find that it won’t take very long before your dog figures out that the only way to get treats is to keep his feet on the floor.  Reward lavishly this new behaviour.

Repeat the entire exercise at a later time the same day.  You’ll note that he will have a period of “forgetfulness” at first, but will quickly catch on to the game.  Change locations for the next set of exercises then change people for new exercises.

Do this several times over a period of days with as many different people as you can find.  When you’re 80% to 90% successful in “no jump” the first time, it’s time to take the exercise on the road.  Go outdoors and start anew.  Once again your dog will have a period of “forgetfulness” but soon you’ll find him happily with all four paws on the ground meeting new people on the street.  Remember to reward his wonderful new manners with treats from your pocket.  After many sessions outside, begin using “Good Dog!” alone, gradually eliminating the treats.

Now your dog has learned a new behaviour for greeting people, but like any other behaviour, it can begin to slide if not practiced.  As well, new and different excitements may occur simultaneously with greeting someone and your dog may relapse into what is hard-wired in his system.  Practice and patience and consistent expectations are what will serve you best in the long run.

Happy training your Kangaroo Dog!

Lynn Hyndman

House Training Tips and Tricks

The task is to ensure that the puppy understands that it pays off to eliminate outside.  They need repeated positive input that they’ve guessed correctly. 

To effectively housetrain, new puppies need to be taken outdoors during the day and evening about every hour. They need to be taken out after they’ve eaten, after a nap, and after bouts of high activity, and after training. Every successful elimination warrants a Good Puppy and a treat from your pocket. Take every opportunity you can to provide him with the information that it is a very good plan to eliminate outdoors.

In addition to the housetraining protocol is the appropriate use of a crate.  The rule of thumb is: “If you can’t supervise, you must confine.”   The space inside the crate should only be big enough for your puppy to move around easily and lay down comfortably.  Dogs have a natural aversion to eliminating in their sleeping quarters. 

Always be vigilant in watching your puppy for signals that he needs to eliminate.  He may abruptly stop what he’s doing and begin to intently sniff the floor.  That’s a good indicator. Another is circling and sniffing.  He also may disappear behind some furniture.  Some prefer privacy when eliminating. 

In a perfect world, your goal is to have an perfect reward history…the puppy never has a chance to eliminate indoors.  But we’re not perfect, just like our pups, so if you happen upon a spot that he has used recently….maybe 5 seconds ago, or 2 hours ago,  the ONLY thing you should do is clean it up.  Correcting the puppy late only teaches him that you’re unpredictable and occasionally scary.

Your job is to supervise him, anticipate when he needs to go, watch for the signs, and to praise him (with a treat and “Good Puppy”) when he gets it right. 

Happy Training!
Lynn Hyndman

You Should Know This by Now! The “Mystery” of Generalization

How many times have we looked at our dogs in frustration when we’ve asked for, what we consider, a task the dog knows quite well and yet there is a total failure? What the heck is going on?

It could be that the training has not actually hit the ‘critical mass’ mark because the issue of generalization has raised its ugly head. The fact of the matter is that dogs don’t generalize very well. They can’t easily take a new piece of information or skill and apply it to a new set of circumstances.

I can easily teach a young puppy to sit in the kitchen in a few minutes. But, even though I say and do exactly the same thing for the pup, a move to the dining room presents confusion on behalf of the pup. This confusion results in either frustration or disengagement by the puppy if I don’t quickly step in to help by starting over.

Here’s a great little list of the factors involved in generalization to emphasize all the different elements one must train before the behaviour/skill is learned. Each element is introduced at the lowest level of difficulty and gradually increased to the highest level.





Happy Training!

-Lynn Hyndman