What is Real Clicker Training?


Note: I have noticed from the enthusiastic response to this article something rather interesting. The objections presented in the comments run to several basic themes. One type of objection picks a tiny point and emphasizes it well beyond the main theme of the article.That is called a “straw-dog” argument – where contradicting a lesser point is supposed to neutralize the bigger issues. The rest of my blog has the equivalent of a 300 page book on topics that all relate to the real world. Some of those articles may answer your questions in the broader context. As you read this I would suggest that this is about real animals – straw dogs need not apply. Continue reading

2-Day “Broad Band” Seminar with Gary Wilkes – Phoenix, AZ April 14/15 2018


Using a target stick to teach S&R style “agility’.

seminarlocation1Contact for details, price and registration: Michele Wilkes scooterzmomi@aol.com
Lodging: See bottom of page

Phone: 480-649-9804

This seminar will go beyond an introduction to real clicker training – the first practical and humane application of operant conditioning for dogs, from its creator.  You will gain first-hand knowledge of how to shape and control behaviors with precision and maintain great performance. You will also learn how to stop behaviors on a dime. No, this isn’t that namby-pamby “all-treats” stuff. You will learn to use the full spectrum of behavioral tools at your disposal. The facility is guide dog school with a lovely open grassy area and covered areas in case it rains. We will have plenty of room to move around and shelter from the storm. Continue reading

Boise Seminar, January 27-28, 2018

Oh, boy! Idaho in the winter. I can’t wait. For those of you attending, you’ll want to get started on some prep-work. I promise it won’t take much time and you’ll get a heck-of-a-lot more from the seminar if you do. Go to these links to find out what to work on. See you there!

Prep for a Gary Wilkes Seminar…cont’d.

And look at these YouTube videos.
Short targeting explanation
Session with a green dog

Getting distance, prelude to directed movements.

Gary Wilkes Jacksonville Seminar Dec. 9&10, Jacksonville, FL

We are going to have a blast in Jax! For those of you who don’t know what to expect, take a look at these links. They will give you a taste of construction tools that can dramatically improve performance for working and sport dogs. Contact Anne Baxter in Facebook or go to Dog Obedience Group of Jax  anne@dogofjax.com

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Anne will be handling registrations.

Now for the fun stuff.

Targeting basics with a raw dog.

What you can do with it…

These are videos on my youtube channel, wilkesgm1. There are about 60 of them there and you can also see videos dealing with behavior modification and a variety of topics.


Socialization: There’s the rub…

This is often what ‘socialization’ leads to.

Think about the root of that word for a second. Social. It means “relating to society or its organization.” Socialization is the process whereby we adapt to society. In modern dog training that means putting dogs together as a prerequisite to acceptable social behavior. This is an example of editing reality to promote an agenda.

The assumption that socialization is automatically beneficial requires evidence that is not currently provided. If a dog has a good dose of genetically transmitted aggression, interaction with other dogs will trigger that behavior. More interaction means a faster ‘ramp up’ to skills associated with fighting. That is because normal, adult canines have to be able and willing to viciously fight at the drop of the a specific trigger. To ‘not fight’ is the anomaly for all canids. They fight BECAUSE they have been socialized, which elevates them to a fully adult repertoire. It’s like a terrier that kills it’s first rat, a Cattle Dog that heels it’s first cow and a pointer that points its for bird. No bird, no point. Birds ’causes’ pointing. More birds, more points.

What this really means is that the person blindly promoting ‘socialization’ is giving a one-dimensional view of dogs. That view ignores developmental processes that occur at puberty and later during full maturation. Dogs that are friendly as juveniles may become seriously dangerous dogs as they mature, regardless of how much they were socialized. Fully adult dogs may be passive around the vast majority of dogs and have an attitude about a single dog.

To see this clearly, consider ‘leg lifting’ as a metaphor. One day the dog is squatting to pee and then, suddenly, it lifts its leg. Socialization has no influence on that. Dogs that have been around other dogs graduate to leg-lifting and dogs that have never been around other dogs lift their legs at about nine months, too. If socialization is a prerequisite for having a well behaved dog, why doesn’t it work on such a passive, genetic trait?

Now we get to a big point. Socialization is promoted either implicitly or explicitly as a preventative fix for aggression. It is promised by people who do not know how to control aggression. I know that because the rule in day-care is that if a fight breaks out, the dog is banned. Think about that. A dog is in day-care for months as it matures and yet, one day, picks a fight. This mirrors the developmental behavior of leg lifting. One day it’s not there, the next day it is.

The only difference between aggression and leg-lifting is that if the dog lifts its leg at daycare, they clean it up. What they do not suggest is ‘more socialization’ to return the dog to a juvenile state of squatting to pee. That is because there is no connection between socialization and arrested development. You can’t turn the clock back. It won’t work with leg lifting and it won’t work with humping or fighting. Any rational person realizes that developmental behaviors are simply a matter of time. Once those behaviors wake up, you can’t put the genie back in the bottle. (Yes, that is a mixed metaphor) Guess what wakes them up? Socialization.

The More Important Component: Do the right things.
Male dogs that I own do not lift their legs, intact or not. They don’t fight, intact or not. They don’t attack other dogs whether they have been broadly socialized or not. I can extend those statements to my clients’ dogs if they ask in advance for those outcomes. This is regardless of socialization. My job is to sculpt a dog’s repertoire and give them a life devoid of problems. Socialization doesn’t do that. Planned, controlled training does that.