Tools & Equipment
Gather tools and equipment appropriate for the species you are working with. Such items could include:
- Treat pouch
- Food rewards
- 6ft leash (a six-foot leash is essential for dog safety when teaching loose-leash walking)
- Longer leashes can be used for other animals such as cats, ferrets, and rabbits
- Flat buckle collar or Martingale collar (for dogs who tend to back out of their collar)
Most animals will respond to food as a reward. Many will also respond to clicker training.
Other options used specifically with dogs such as the Gentle Leader®, the Halti®, or walking harnesses, require conditioning to the device (which takes patience and time), and can be difficult to use correctly. They are designed to be used as behaviour management tools, and not as training aids. If used incorrectly they can have harmful rather than positive results.
Treats are an effective reward for most animals. For training purposes, always have treats on hand. There are a variety of treat pouches available at varying costs, but perhaps the least expensive and most convenient solution is the nail apron sold by home improvement stores. These aprons are very inexpensive and work great in a shelter environment.
Clickers can be an effective tool to capture desirable behaviours in animals. Have staff and volunteers carry the clicker on a wrist coil or in a pocket so that they can readily capture desirable animal behaviours. For example, dog behaviours could include being quiet, sitting, lying down, and cat behaviours could include coming to the front of the cage to greet, or offering a paw (high five).
Charge up your clicker
You need to charge up your clicker before starting. Charging up the clicker basically means you are establishing a reinforcer. Animals don’t know the significance of the clicking sound when you start training. You need to begin by identifying a small high-value food reward for that animal (you can also teach the dog to associate this food reward with the “yes” command and the clicker, for those instances when you may not have your clicker or a food reward handy. Then you still have your “yes” command as a reward.)
Click the clicker once (in-out), then immediately give your animal a treat. Repeat this until your animal reacts to the clicker sound (by startling, pricking her ears, or suddenly looking for the treat). At this point, randomly exclude the treat reward when you click until there are no more food rewards offered and the clicker becomes the exclusive reward.
Keep your timing random (1-5 seconds between one “click-and-treat” time and the next).
Remember: click first, then treat!
- Martingale collars are recommended for any breed of dog, especially for dogs with heads which are smaller than their necks as they can often slip out of standard flat collars
- A martingale collar has 2 loops; the smaller loop is the “control loop” that tightens the larger loop when pulled to prevent dogs from slipping out of the collar
- A correctly adjusted martingale does not constrict the dog’s neck when pulled taut