The Ultimate Clicker- The Communicative Approach.

Posted: August 6, 2013 in Canine Well-Being, Choosing a German Shepherd., Communicative Approach Training & Theory, Dog Training, Natural Dog Training, Uncategorized

There are infinite Truths about Dogs, just as there are infinite Opinions about Dogs…The opinions spring from the minds of humans, and they tend to be possessed of “viewpoint jaundice” .  Some of the crazier opinions are spouted by individuals that are wholly dependant on (and very self-possessed) of the fact that they are “educated”, and have degrees to hang on a wall to prove it to the rest of mankind.  They never cease being impressed with themselves mostly.

Some of the more profound conclusions have come from grizzled old geezers that depend on a pack of mongrels to guard their junkyards.  “Them dawg’s ‘er in muh brain…he ‘kin do ever’thing here but run the cash register…”

I’ve learned a lot from both…and I won’t ever let that change.  I’ll always listen, even if I’m just being courteous.

One Truth has presented itself however, over and over again, in my Canine enlightenment.  It applies in many situations, but I’m being subjective here, as it fits my purpose.   “If You Want To Know The Truth About Dogs, Ask the Real Expert…Your Dog!!”

The Communicative Approach to Training Theory, (C.A.T.T.)  was born somewhere in it’s middle.  Much of what I learned has developed, in either a backwards direction, or more forward.  And the truth of the matter is this:  I didn’t really understand it until I figured out how to listen to my dog, Hans.  I had to abandon the natural (If egotistical) inclination to approach him in the attitude of, “I’m the superior intellect here, and you shall listen to me and submit to my training.”   If you believe  that approach  works in more than the grossest of manners…You’re absolutely, positively, and utterly wrong.

Most of us need a rethink of the definition between what “Training a Dog” means, and what” Educating a Dog”  means.  Training a Dog can mean anything from choke collars, E-collars, and Food deprivation, to plastic clicker toys, Positive Reinforcement, and many other methods.  It requires a book of instructions, and perhaps a seminar or thirteen. (Depending on the business sense the Instructor or Franchise owner has.  Return customers are Vital to most, and they will do their utmost to make you dependant on them. It’s  A Symphony of Turnstiles!) 

 People that rely wholly on Training their dogs are answering to the shallow end of the pool, the Physical dog.  If the dog sits on command, and has a good recall, these sorts are satisfied.  The problem is this…Many rely on the Physical to carry their dog to the next level.  Such “trainers” begin at the mistaken idea that their dog is inferior to the human aspect, and can only be expected to do so much, as it is just a dumb animal.  A dumb animal waiting to be “Shaped” or “Coerced” into the behavior desired. Such a process is dismissive and often denigrating to the marvelous living, four-legged being beside you…I refer to this as “Dis-honoring the Dog.”    Interestingly, this same sort of behavior takes place with human beings, often in the same Universities that crank out Phd’s everyday.  A young man with extraordinary ability to carry a football or slam-dunk a basketball is treated to the finest “Training Regimen” the school can provide… in the aspects of his sport.  His education academically, though available, is given a much lower priority.  The school then produces an illiterate hero to the masses.  Hopefully, he makes enough cash in the future to pay someone to run his life, because he’s incapable.  That’s Physical Training.

But Educating a Dog is something very different.  The dog is treated as though it is a fellow sentient being, (Not Human, but certainly aware.)  The dog is treated as though his own abilities are not limited because he’s “just a dog.”  Instead of being shaped or broken down into a behavior, the dog is allowed to make use of his own thinking faculties.  Accomplishing this, puts many more demands on the dogs human owner.  YOU must be observant, patient, humble, instinctive, and open to new learning!  I can hear the clicker people out there screaming at me  “If it’s NOT “Purely Positive” training, then I’ll have none of it!!”  Well, relax folks.  Not only is the Communicative Approach, positive for the dog, you’ll also find that this way of thinking will make you a better person.  Because it’s an attitude changer, and the goal is to make the emotion emanating from yourself, more positive! At least that’s what my dogs have told me…

Every time you approach your dog, whether it’s during training, while you’re looking for an affectionate nuzzle, or while you stagger down the hallway in the middle of the night headed for the bathroom, you are putting out a signal of energy to your dog.  Your energy might be telling the dog, “Stay. Wait for my Signal.”  It might be permission to approach for a belly scratch.  Or it might be saying, “Your Dad is half asleep and stumbling toward you in the dark.  Get out of the way or he’ll step on you…”  I like to picture it this way:

EnterpriseFIRE  Our dogs read this energy, and they reciprocate in kind.  That’s what my dogs have been teaching me about training, about communicating with dogs, and about how I behave in everyday life.  “Be Aware that You are Always Putting Out Energy Towards Every Living Thing.  It Affects Every Relationship that You Have.  Make It Positive.  And Keep It That Way.”

  If I arrive at home having been stuck in the infernal turmoil of city traffic, I’m usually not happy. My dark and glowering mood usually walks in the door ten steps ahead of me.   Without exception, I have noticed that my dogs beat a retreat to their safe spots in their kennels.  Without word one from me…Energy.

When I walk out into the yard, anticipating a game of Search or Fetch with my four-legged buds, they anticipate it and greet my appearance with unbridled joy.  No Words, just Energy.

If we’re doing bitework, my calm demeanor will keep the dog at my side.  The decoy could be covered in raw chicken parts and as long as my energy says, “Not Yet”, he stays.  No Words, no movement.  Energy… But the moment that I change to the energy of indicating a threat, I have 100 pounds of flashing lightning bolt.  No words.  No Motion.  Energy…

The Ultimate Clicker is not made of metal or plastic.  It is rather, something far more ephemeral, far less tangible, and certainly cannot be purchased from any website.  You can’t learn to use the Ultimate Clicker at a Seminar.  You certainly can’t learn to use the Ultimate Clicker from a clicker trainer.  The Ultimate Clicker, once found,  and developed, can’t be lost in a training bag.  Because the Ultimate Clicker is in your Energy…The emotion that you project, and that allows the dog to return that flow.

Learning to use this Energy, is much the same as learning to have a Positive Attitude towards everything.  I know you’ve approached a fellow human at work or home, and sensed the presence of negative energy, a snarly attitude, or even outright, unfocused energy.  We avoid that person as fast as we can, don’t we?  The problem is, so many of us respond to negative energy with negative energy.  “Give me a nasty attitude will ya’?  In your face Moron!”  We fall victim to this often.  It’s only human.

Once we master our emotion, our energy output, we can begin to work with our dogs.  We then learn to accept our dogs energy flow, and understand it.  It won’t happen overnight, but that’s okay.  “To Err is Human, To Forgive, Canine”…  Your dog wants you to understand this energy flow, and use it.

Here’s the next exercise for you as a dog trainer, and you don’t even need a dog.  Think about how you react to everything in your day.  A co-worker pulls a bonehead action, and costs you time.  A driver in a Malibu cuts you off in traffic, nearly causing an accident.  You spouse won’t stop talking while you watch television.  Your dog keeps putting a nasty, wet tennis ball on your lap.  HOW DO YOU REACT?  What energy do you put out in reaction?  Think about your reaction, and even catalog it.  Think, “How could I have better energized that reaction?  Do I always get that upset at things?”

  Think about your energy output this week.  In an honest examination, you’ll recognize a new way to approach everything.  It will be better for you, and for your dog.  Everyone around you will react in some way…It’s the Communicative Approach.

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Comments
  1. Wonderful, wonderful post! You state your argument and defend your points clearly and concisely. I found this a very smooth post to follow.

    Thank you for making such good points. I love the concept of the energy. It sounds so intuitive once you point it out! This is a good stepping stone to move from ‘directing a lower being around’ to communicating with a fellow, thinking, individual.

    As Socrates said, “I am wise because I know nothing.” And that is where we humans have failed, by insisting that we know MUCH more than our dogs do when in fact we know very very little compared to them.