Our Training History (or Why We Switched to Clicker) By Gail Tamases Fisher


In 1997, about a year after we began
our conversion to clicker training, we were hosting a clicker seminar. A participant who used my training books and had been to my seminars, told me she was there to learn about clicker training because she had heard a rumor that I had changed to it. In a grave and serious tone, she said, "I know going public wasn't easy for you." I had to laugh - I'd been "outed": "Ohmygosh, Gail Fisher's a clicker trainer!"

In the beginning, it seemed like a daily occurrence that I would talk to someone who said, "You're switching to clicker?! All those articles, books, college courses, seminars and lectures-years espousing your training 'method'-you're chucking it all?" My response was simply, "I had no choice. Seeing how well clicker training works, I couldn't not change."

Early in my dog training career - now nearly 30 years ago-as I learned different ways to get a dog to "obey", I discovered that virtually every approach I tried, read about, heard about or observed worked. Correction-based training works. Cookie training works. Command-based training works. Lure training, drive training, who-knows-what training-they all work. So how does one discover or choose what "method" is "best"?

At first, I trained the way I had been taught, changing to methods I felt more comfortable with as I learned more. But as I studied about dog training and instructing - teaching others train their own dogs - as I studied learning theory and how dogs learn, I solidified my principles and a philosophy of training. Simply put, my philosophy is to seek out and use training techniques that meet three criteria:
  1. A technique must be consistent with how the dog learns.
  2. It must be fair to the dog and do no harm.
  3. Finally, it must be understandable to, and be willingly performed by the average dog owner - that is, it cannot rely on exceptional timing, talent or innate dog-handling skills.
My "old" approach to training, based on the method in my two books (with Joachim Volhard), meets those criteria, but clicker training takes these principles to new heights.

I could not remain true to my philosophy and ignore clicker training. And the more I use clicker training, the more I learn and train dogs with it, the more convinced I am that this is dog training and communication as it should be.

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