Animal trainer utilizes clicker training to reshape dogs’ habits


Veterinary assistant and animal trainer Jenny Martens works with dogs at The Gentle Doctor Animal Hospital. She has been training dogs since she was 10-years old.

Martens joined a canine training club and her father took her to dog shows on weekends. She said she was “the first child given the ‘OK’ to train animals with the group.”

Martens utilizes a method of training known as ‘clicker training,’ which involves using an audible signal to train a dog to perform tricks and remove unwanted behaviors.

She typically uses a device that emits a ‘clicking’ noise when a button is pressed. Martens describes the tool as “a way to take a snapshot of the action you wish an animal to perform.”

She said the entire process involves teaching an animal in segments. Martens demonstrated this by showing the stages in which one would teach a dog to roll over. She teaches the dog to roll one quarter turn at a time and rewards the canine with a treat after each action is completed. After a while, the dog is capable of performing the action in one smooth motion, rather than one portion at a time.

The training is typically used in a dog’s early stages of development. It is then slowly phased out as the animal progresses.

Martens seems confident with the success rate of this method of training. The positive reinforcement trains the animal to want to behave in a desired manner, rather than merely avoid negative behavior to deter being punished.

She has stopped using other forms of animal training due to her consistently positive outcome with the ‘clicker’ method. She says she has seen her method succeed on animals where other forms of training, such as choke chains or shock callers, have failed.

The Gentle Doctor Animal Hospital, located at 312 Main Avenue South, opened its doors with only one patient and three files. Staff members decided to make a file for each of their own pets to enhance the appearance of their collection. Now, the hospital has close to 4,000 patients, and trains hundreds of animals each year.

Martens offers a “puppy class,” a four-week course for young dogs. The classes cover general behavior, such as house-training and deterring dogs from jumping on people. The course is $45 and classes last from 45 minutes to one hour.

Older dogs may be enrolled in a class known as manners and more, which involves basic obedience training. Martens also offers counseling for first-time dog owners who wish to discover which canine best suits the potential owner’s needs.

She said, “Too many people choose a dog without knowing what the breed is like, and end up dropping it off at the local animal shelter because they cannot handle the animal.”

To schedule enrollment in the courses or pre-purchase counseling, contact Martens by phone at 692-6929 or e-mail at [email protected]

#1.884485:909698689.jpg:nurse_zn.jpg:Jenny Martens, a veterinary assistant and animal trainer at the Gentle Doctor Animal Hospital, specializes in a method known as “clicker training.”: