Clicker Training

CLICKER TRAINING - WEEK 1

Why use a clicker?

Clickers are a great tool for dog training, yes I could reward with a verbal praise, "good dog" etc, but as my mood changes so will my voice (which is not consistent), also I know my timing could be off, therefore my dog may have finished the positive behaviour and I may inadvertently verbally mark an unwanted behaviour such as a bark. So the clicker keeps a consistent, crisp, clear sound.

The other things that I love with the clicker are that you can catch a behaviour that your dog may just do, like Herbie (my dog) once scratched in a clicker session, I clicked it and as he understood the clicker he offered the behaviour again and again. To teach that behaviour would have been incredibly hard, but with the clicker it was easy!

Clickers teach the dog to think through what they are doing and offer a behaviour rather than you forcing the dog to do something. They also teach your dog to keep trying and thinking, as well as to enjoy learning with you.

Where to start:

Get your clicker and arm yourself with the best treats ever! The treats MUST be quick and easy to eat, diced chicken, cheese or sausage is great for this, they are all easy to break up, easy to eat and show up well on many surfaces.

Firstly you need to do what is known as loading the clicker……… Take your clicker, treats (which must be easily to hand in a bowl up high, a treat bag, or bum bag) and your dog to a quiet area, a room they are often in with no distractions, and preferably before your dog has had it's dinner. Hold the clicker in one hand and a few treats in the other, click once and throw the dog a treat. Repeat this maybe 20 times, not asking the dog to do anything, so all it is learning is that after the click comes a treat.

I will quite often sit on the floor when I'm clicker training as I like being on the same level as my dog, so I can interact with him more easily.

Jackpots!

Occasionally when my dog has tried extremely hard he'll get a jackpot! This just means that he will get 4 or 5 treats instead of one. This way it keeps him thinking if I try a little bit harder will I get extra.

What can I teach with a clicker and at what age? The answer is anything! How large is your imagination? Here are some you tube videos to wet your appetite…….


Ham is a puppy that I hand raised from Many Tears, this is him in his new home with Nat. In this video he is only 3 months old) http://www.youtube.com/user/yolle555
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsggKkxbEkM
http://www.puppyprodigies.org/VideoClips.htm
An amazing site that starts with extremely young puppies.

I taught Hex my hand raise pup to spin left and right at 3.5 weeks old! As soon as he was on to solid food I would use his all meals as a training session. The benefits of this were:

  1. He was hungry, so would try hard for his dinner.
  2. I didn't have to give him lots of extra food that may have upset his tummy, as I could just use his normal food amounts.
  3. He learnt to "learn" with me and to use his brain to solve problems at a very early age!
  4. He didn't see this as training. In your dogs eyes they are doing something and you treat it….easy!

A good place to start is to teach your dog to target the clicker hand.

Sit on the floor with the clicker in one hand and a treat in the other. Hold both hands out in front of you and wait for your dog to touch the hand with the clicker in (i.e. target the hand without the food). In the beginning of any new behaviour you need to reward all attempts, otherwise your dog can't ever get an idea of what he is doing, therefore if he even looks at the correct hand reward, slowly holding out for a better and better attempt.

If he is obsessed with the treat hand make it easier for him to get it right, move the treat hand back very slightly so the clicker hand is the most obvious, when he touches it or goes towards it then click and treat. As he gets the idea move the treat hand back into play and as he gets really good make the treat hand the obvious hand.

At NO point should you be asking for the behaviour or putting any sort of command to it. Only when your dog does nothing else but offer the touch can you start to add a command i.e. "touch". So now you are adding the command be very sure what that command means (it must be crystal clear to you and your dog!).

Does "touch" mean with the nose with a foot etc……..If you are not sure how will your dog know what you mean? The command and click should come as the dog is DOING the behaviour i.e. whilst his nose is touching the clicker hand.

Adding a different dimension:

Teach your dog to target with his nose, with each of his feet, to target your hand on the floor, or up high. From there you can teach him to target anything……. Lids, shoes, pots, a piece of paper etc.

Tips and rules:

I will use "Yes" along side the click to mark the behaviour, that way if I'm out and about and want to reinforce a behaviour my dog will understand it to be like a click. Also it isn't always practical to carry a clicker (i.e. in an agility class all the time), BUT I would ALWAYS use a clicker as a first choice!

The clicker is NOT a remote control; you do not need to point at your dogs head for it to work!

Always follow up a click with a treat, even if you didn't mean to click, otherwise your dog will loose faith in the clicker as a reward.

The clicker is NOT a toy for other people to play with. It is your special thing between you and your dog.

Use special treats that your dog does not get unless training, that way it is worth while for him. If your dog is not foody, but loves a toy then use a toy, but food is easier initially.

Be sure what you are clicking - Do you really want your dog to offer a bark every time you train?

Do not add a command until your dog is offering the behaviour all the time.

As your dog gets better at the behaviour hold out with the click so he holds the position longer, or does it better.

Keep your sessions short and fun!!!!!

NEXT TIME: Lefts, Rights, Sits, Downs and Bow till then Happy Clicking!



CLICKER TRAINING - WEEK 2

Picking up where we left off last time.......

By now you and your dog should be well accustomed to the clicker. So we will start with a quick description of how to do the left, right, down and sit.

Use the treats to lure your dog into position (chose which one your want to do and stick to working on one until your dog has learnt them), starting with the lefts and rights use your treat to lure your dog in a complete circle click and treat. Repeat until you don't have to use your arm to turn the circle, once this happens then start to add your command.

Make sure that you don't make the movement too quick as your dog won't follow your hand the whole way round. With the sit place the treat by your dogs nose and slowly bring it up (not too high) until your dog sits, again with the down bring your hand down to the floor, concealing the treat within your hand until your dog downs, then click and treat. So take these as bonus exercises and here are two more advanced tricks........

Wipe your nose:

To start training your dog to wipe it's face get a small piece of sellotape (about 3 inches long), with your clicker and treats at the ready. Pop the piece of tape just above the nose on the bridge of his/her nose. As your dog tries to remove the tape with its foot, click and reward. Keep repeating the process until your dog is offering the movement on its own without the tape. When this is happening add your cue and then hold out for a better and better attempt until s/he will offer a few in a row.

Beg: lace your dog in a sit, hold the treat above your dogs head (but close to it), as soon as your dog makes any attempt at lifting his/her feet off the floor (but keeping their bottom on the floor) click and treat, as they get better hold out for a better and better attempt. Once they are offering the behaviour then add the command.

NEXT TIME: walk backwards and twist backward through your legs.



CLICKER TRAINING - WEEK 3

Walk backwards:

This is an excellent exercise to help your dog understand how their backend works, which is especially good for those who want to do agility. It's a lot easier to teach this if you have a long hallway as it helps to keep the dog straight.

Stand your dog in front of you and take a step towards him, as he moves back (even one foot moves) click and treat, remember it is important to reward every effort when first teaching behaviours as it will encourage the dog to try harder. Slowly ask for more and more steps before clicking and then add the command.

Twist backwards through your legs:

This incorporates two of the previous tricks you've taught, a spin (left/right) and the walk back.

Firstly stand your dog in front of you, but facing the same way as you (I.e. not looking at you), stand with yours legs wide apart, place a treat in front of his nose and gently push back, as soon as he takes a step backward click and treat, repeat the process until you can get him to walk backwards through your legs.

It is important to mention that you should NOT be using your walk back command as walk back is to back away from you.......at this point there should be no command given for any of the trick.

The next stage is to turn your dog in a half circle, so start with your dog facing you and decide which way you want to turn (it doesn't matter) when they get half way stop and click (you are now in the position to walk back through your legs. Complete the half turn 3 or 4 times to get them used to it then incorporate the walking back through your legs as well.

When the whole thing is strung together add a command...... back through or legs is what I use.

You can see in this video my pup doing it he had done a 5 min session on the above and these were his first attempts at the whole thing........

Happy clicking.....

NEXT TIME: Bow and head down flat.



CLICKER TRAINING - WEEK 4

Both of today's tricks are great for agility, the bow teaches weight shift and the head flat is great for a nice low contact position.

This can be a bit tricky to catch the movement before the dog reaches a down, so you can help your dog by placing your arm under the belly near the back legs.....

Have a treat in your hand and bring it down to the floor, and slightly back towards the dog. As he investigates and lowers his head and front end click! Be sure not to click if the dog has reached a down otherwise you will confuse him. This trick can take a bit more time to teach, but don't try and rush it as they will learn it better given time.

Head Down Flat:

Sit on the floor with your dog facing you in a down. Place a treat in front of his nose, but on the floor, slowly bring your hand back towards you as he stretches forwards (but low) click and treat, progress to where his head touches the floor, then hold out for him to hold the position. Holding any position can be the hardest as the dogs can think it's just a momentary thing, so don't be too quick (once he knows the trick) to click, make them work for it.

NEXT TIME: In the box and cross your legs.



CLICKER TRAINING - WEEK 5

In the box

This is great for teaching your dog how their legs work……especially good for agility. See this video for demos… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kF10o3LWdVg

Start with a box that is not too small, encourage your dog to investigate the box by luring with a treat. If a paw accidentally falls within the box click immediately! Give every effort a reward until you feel your dog understands what you are asking. Keep encouraging more and more paws to be inside the box before you click. As your dog becomes more expert at this, decrease the size of the box.

Cross your legs

This tick needs to be taught in steady phases to make your dog really good at it. Place your dog in a down, sit on the floor in front of him. Put the clicker and the treats into the same hand as you want all the focus to be on the one hand. Put your hand on the floor close to his foot, as he extends his foot to touch your hand click and treat. Slowly move (repetition, by repetition) across towards the other foot, until he is in a crossed position.

Happy Clicking......

Next time: Targeting and Dance



CLICKER TRAINING - WEEK 6

Targeting:
You can teach your dog to target anything! A hand, a foot, a tub etc……….

Choose your target object place (for this example we have used a Pringles lid as it is fairly transparent so is quite a hard object to hit). Make a big deal about the object and throw it down in front of you, as your dog goes to investigate, click and reward. Decide before you start what you want your dog to target with i.e. left foot, right foot or nose, also in what position (Molly in the picture is learning to target for the bottom of her contacts in agility, so is learning a nose touch in a down position).

When your dog returns to the object hold out for a better attempt, so maybe a foot touch this time. If your dog fully understands the clicker then he will keep trying stuff to get the click.

Dancing or standing high:
This is great for teaching balance and hind leg awareness. When they are standing high, it must be a stand not a jump or bounce. Hold a toy or treat above your dog as they stand to get it click and treat, ask for them to hold the position for longer and longer. Once they have got it you add all sorts of different dimensions……walk on hind legs, bunny hop, walk on hind legs and circle to the left or right.

There is no limit with what you can do…….my friends cat does down, sit, roll over and beg. You can clicker train anything, even your husband!



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