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Our training group starts all puppies with a clicker or marker word and food to teach behavior. A lot of good things come out of this as we "build" the dog toward competition. Everything from the relationship with the handler to drive for the work to back end awareness is enhanced with this foundation.

We use food to teach and then use a ball or toy reward to build power and speed. Sometimes we revisit with food (the drives are different). We teach bridge words as part of building duration. Eventually bridge words are dropped or become more rare since they cannot be used in a trial.

As the dog gets better at a task, the spotter (we use a spotter to watch the dog/handler teams) has the clicker and will click once for right behavior and several times for something really good. Single clicks get intermittent rewards. Multiple clicks get a reward every time. By this time the reward is typically a ball on a rope either on the handler or on the ground (depends on the dog and what is being worked on). The dogs catch on very fast and it is a lot of fun. Having the spotter click allows the handler to concentrate on their position in relation to the dog and "trial picture" instead of looking at the dog (mirrors indoors are helpful with this but outside, where we trial and train you need a spotter or you end up twisting your body to see the dog at least some of the time).

Yesterday the decoy used a clicker in protection and used it in the same manner with the bite being the reward. The young dogs transitioned to this really nicely (currently it is a group of all young dogs).

Just putting this out there for those who think IPO is all yank and crank when nothing could be further from the truth.

Currently judges look for attitude in all three phases (tail position is big, expression etc.). A dog that tracks perfectly but has a tucked tail (indicating pressure training) may get a mediocre score as will a dog in Obedience that is not engaged and happy or a dog in the long down that lays with its head between its front paws which, even if it is the dog's natural inclination, is read as "dog trained with pressure."

Adding the clicker to other phases with other rewards than food is a lot of fun and the dogs stay happy and engaged.
 
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