If you want to be a great dog owner, one of the best things you can do is read Karen’s first book “Don’t shoot the dog”
Originally published in 1985 Don’t shoot the dog is an ‘easy read’ classic that teaches while it entertains.
You won’t feel as though you are being lectured or educated, but at the end of it, you will be a better dog owner.
From dogs to dolphins and back
Karen is a biologist and began her training career in the 1960s when her husband opened a sea life park. The park needed a system for training dolphins, and Karen was the only one involved that had trained anything.Even though her experience was limited to just one dog- a weimaraner, she researched the science of operant conditioning and put theory into practice.
With some helpers Karen soon had over a dozen dolphins trained to enchant the public, using no force whatsoever. Later, she developed the concept of clicker training for dogs.
The clicker training system took a surprisingly long time to catch on, but in recent decades has taken it’s rightful place as one of the most effective and popular dog training systems ever invented.
Clicker training works by applying positive reinforcement to desirable behaviours, and most importantly by providing an effective event marker to let dogs know exactly and precisely what we expect from them.
More about Karen
You can read more about Karen’s early life in her interview with Melissa Alexander here. Her influence undoubtedly extends beyond the dog world.
Her enduringly popular Don’t Shoot the Dog isn’t just a book about dog training, though all dog trainers should read it, it’s a book about training behaviour and is essential reading for parents too. It certainly changed the way I handled my own kids in the 80s.
Karen Pryor Academy
The Karen Pryor Academy is an educational institution founded by Karen Pryor in 2007 It focuses on teaching animal trainers to develop their training skills and abilities via positive reinforcement training methods. It now has branches across North America.
The academy collaborates with many skilled animal trainers who share Karen’s training philosophy and vision for the future. If you are in the USA you may be able to take advantage of the courses they offer.
A better life for dogs
A clicker itself is just a tool, an event marker. But it is a tool that has made the advances in training through positive reinforcement possible.
Clicker training goes further than simply using a clicker to mark behaviour. It has enabled trainers to abandon harsh and intimidating training techniques. The training philosophy that underpins many clicker trainers’ methodology is founded on the avoidance of aversives.
Karen Pryor did not just popularise the use of event markers in dog training. Thousands if not millions of dogs are now trained without the use of punishment thank in large part to Karen’s efforts. She has been a significant part of a movement that has created a better life for dogs worldwide. No mean achievement.
Getting started with clicker training
If you’d like to give clicker training a go, you might enjoy Karen’s book Getting Started with Clicker Training for Dogs. It’s a great little guide to getting off to a good start with training your dog without force.
We’ll be looking at clicker training in more detail in the weeks to come, and I’ll be showing you some fun tricks to get you started with this useful and important skill.