Thursday, December 08, 2005

Clicker training with aggressive dogs

'Clicker training' shows promise with aggressive dogs

When Massachusetts dog trainer Emma Parsons taught a not-so-old dog a new trick, she learned a big lesson herself.
It eventually led to a training method that teaches aggressive dogs how to calm down, a book on the subject, and workshops such as one she will lead this weekend in Oakmont.

The workshop is Parsons' first appearance in this area and is one of a growing number of workshops she has been doing since her book, "Click to Calm," came out in December.

"I just wanted to reinforce the absence of behavior," Parsons says about the twist she put on the well-known process known as "clicker training."

"The best thing about her system is that there is really a solution for the aggressive dog," says Barb Levenson, owner of the Barb Levenson Dog Training Center in Oakmont, where the workshop will be held. "And you can see it's more effective than the old method of just beating it out of them."

Parsons will deliver a workshop Saturday and Sunday in which dog owners will be shown how to use a metallic clicker and an immediate treat to have dogs develop calm behavior.

That click is used to indicate to the dog any time calm behavior is necessary, Parsons says. It is used to sidestep aggressive reactions that emerge for any number of reasons.

"It's a mechanical skill," Levenson says of clicker training, "but it is an art and a science."

Clicker training for dogs was popularized in the mid-'80s through the writings of fellow Massachusetts trainer Karen Pryor. She was a disciple of English behaviorist Ian Dunbar.

By Bob Karlovits
Wednesday, November 9, 2005