Clicker training was a revelation for me. When I was living in France (where I spent 30 years of my life) and first came across the couple of videos that were on the market in the US, almost 15 years ago, I couldn’t wait to share the techniques with the French speaking public. With most information on positive methods being in English, traditional training was the only answer to the millions of owners in need of help with their pooch. As an American, I had the advantage of being able to access a pool of knowledge from both the scientific field and the training community in the US.
In 2002, Catherine Collignon, Luc Groben, Geert de Bolster and myself, hosted the very first clicker-training seminar, in Orleans, just south of Paris. With just under 100 participants, the word was out: the training revolution had started!
What an incredible change in the past 10 years since I left the country. The dog training school that I had created then passed over to Catherine Collignon (Animalin, l’ecole du chien) is now the reference and source for most clicker trainers. 10 years ago, dog clubs were the norm and most owners were learning from volunteers with no formal education on dogs. Today, most trainers are professionals and are required to be licensed. Thanks to Catherine Collignon’s efforts, along with others such as Thierry Bedossa, clicker training has taken over the country and can be found in almost all French speaking regions, including in Belgium and Switzerland.
Even though traditional training still has its place, Cesar Millan himself was banned from appearing on French television after petitions were signed against the promotion of his abusive methods.
Until recently, veterinarians learned in school that pushing the dog’s nose in his feces or swatting him with a newspaper was the way to go. Those days are now over, with plenty of evidence, backed up by scientific studies showing the consequences of punitive based methods, today, young vets learn the use of positive based methods and the importance of referring their clients to the trainers who apply them.
Together, Catherine Collignon and Ian Dunbar, have also created the MFEC a group similar to the APDT in the US, composed of French speaking professional positive dog trainers. Through information bulletins and conferences, their members stay updated on the latest training techniques and scientific information related to dogs. Veterinarians and dog professionals meet and share their knowledge for the benefit of the human/dog relationship.
At the last conference organized by the MFEC, in Angers, where I was invited as a speaker, I had the opportunity to witness how far clicker training and reward based methods had come and was very impressed and moved. The information is catching up all aver the world and even if change takes time, it is happening… And there is no going back!
Jennifer Cattet, Ph.D.