I started teaching clicker training in South Africa in 1988, and was told by fellow clicker trainers throughout the world that I was the first to use this method on the African continent! Although I am not sure how accurate this is, I have yet to come across anyone in South Africa who has been training animals with a clicker for a longer period than I have.
Clicker Training Concepts trains animals using the principles of operant conditioning. Based in Johannesburg, South Africa, I started my career as a dog handler using what was then the recognized method of training dogs i.e. positive reinforcement combined with compulsion. Dogs were compelled to sit, down, heel, whatever, with the use of a check (or choke) chain and a lead. In the late 1980’s I became concerned about the use of coercion and the often damaging effects arising from its use, and started to research other options. In my opinion, forcing a dog to e.g. sit sometimes had quite severe ramifications – some dogs displayed sensitivity of the neck (probably caused by the jerking on the check chain), others “closed down” and crouched or lagged in heel work. The dogs just didn’t seem to be enjoying their training.
In 1988 I started using the operant conditioning methodology (clicker training), and have become convinced that this is the most effective way to train and better communicate with animals.
I have owned and shown a number of different breeds of dogs, including Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Rottweiler, Jack Russell Terrier, Malinois, Border Collie, German Shepherd Dog, Boxer and various cross breeds, and have successfully competed in dog sports such as:
- Agility Contact and Non Contact
- Breed Working Trials
- Classic Working Trials
- Dog Carting
- Dog Jumping
- International Tracking Trials
On seeing how effective clicker training was with dogs, I was determined to try it on other animals, because the clicker mantra is that any animal can be taught to do anything it is mentally and physically capable of doing. So I trained a friend’s pot-bellied pig – in three 20 minute sessions Pumba learned to heel, target a stick, back up, kneel, back up whilst kneeling, spin (in a very wide circle because his girth was somewhat large) and come when called. Then I went to a game reserve and taught a wild warthog to back up when I approached.
My enthusiasm knew no bounds, so I inveigled a friend to give me a chicken, which I taught to spin, target, go into a crate, as well as discriminate between various colours.
I then bred a litter of puppies which were all clicker trained to sit at 6 weeks of age.
It was wonderful – instead of being mobbed by 8 sets of very sharp teeth, these pups learned within a few minutes that if they sat when I arrived, they would get a treat. A couple of their new owners complained that their puppies were so well behaved – they wondered if perhaps they were sick!
Over the years I have written many articles for various magazines, and have appeared on television several times demonstrating clicker training and its uses. I have trained animals for well known TV advertisements, and have given seminars throughout South Africa and in Namibia. I have also trained a large variety of non domestic animals and presented several clicker seminars for the professionals. I also teach classes in the Johannesburg area in various disciplines on a regular basis. I currently live in Johannesburg, South Africa, with 7 Malinois, a small cross-breed (which we found abandoned on the side of the freeway) and 2 Rottweilers. We also keep a number of chickens and other birds which I train from time to tim