I feel like I understand the principles of operant conditioning very well, and I can explain them to other people. The part that I need help with is the sequence of concrete steps to get from an untrained dog to a trained dog. Part of the problem is that I've never owned a truly well-trained dog, although I have met some, so my picture of what I want is not as clear as it should be. I also don't really know the order: is it better to train sits and stays first, or better to work on calm greetings? There is no one real answer, and there are many ways that will all work, to greater or lesser degrees.
What I need is a book with lots of detailed training plans to follow, at least to give me an idea of how to do it. I haven't found it yet, but one difficulty is that so many clicker training books are published by small presses, which means that the library doesn't carry them. I'm certainly willing to buy any useful book, but I can't afford to buy unseen ones that may or may not help me.
However, there is one book that I'll likely buy without previewing, because it has gotten such rave reviews on the clicker list. Control Unleashed, by Leslie McDevitt, sounds like it would be very useful for my two energetic females, Lily and Netta.
In the meantime, I guess I need to think long and hard about exactly how I want my dogs to behave in different situations, and then break the behaviors down into trainable bits. I'm sure there will be a lot of revising as I actually try things out, but I'll post the rough drafts when they're done.