by Eugenie Chopin
One of the common complaints about Clicker Training is that people are uncoordinated when it comes to using the clicker, treats and sometimes the leash as well. (Not to mention the target stick!). While there is certainly truth to the complaint, try to think back to when you were first learning to drive. How easy was it to remember the 3 pedals: accelerate, brake and clutch; Change gears and remember where they are, look where you’re going, in the side mirrors, the rear view mirror, watch the lines and don’t hit the pedestrians!! Stop for stop signs and traffic lights; don’t forget the read the road sign as you go or you might end up in the wrong part of town or going up a one-way street. And don’t even mention Street signs! AND YOU NEEDED TO DO ALL THESE THINGS AT THE SAME TIME!
Well, I’d say Clicker Training is easier by far! But it does take Practice. So to that end, I thought I’d share with you a few of the exercises we do together in our Clicker Class with & without the dogs. It is simply to get your co-ordination to be more “automatic”. It’s really important to practice without dogs, so that you can pay attention just to how you’re dispensing treats.
You can use a variety of things as treats. Below I have used dried beans of varying sizes, but you could also use your dog’s dry food pellets, hot dog pieces or any other things that are small and hopefully easy to handle.
Dispensing Treat Exercises
1. Treat delivery – Put beans into a cup – You’ll be putting them one by one into an empty cup. See how many beans you can get into the empty cup in 30 seconds.
Note: don’t preload hand; try doing this once with a full cup and then again with a half full cup.
Why are some people faster?
- – More beans in cup
- – Fuller cup
- – Same size beans
- – The closer to the empty cup, the faster you can go
If you are wondering why we want to dispense treats fast the answer is that the rate of reinforcement needs to be high to engage the dog in the game.
2. Add Clicker C/T (Click/Treat)
Now add the clicker to the equation. This means that you’re going to click before you move the treat. The treat can be in 3 different places: in the cup (or dish), in your hand or in a treat bag around your waist. Practice having the treats in all 3 places.
- Click/pause/treat: the slight pause is to make sure you don’t reach for the treat before or while you’re clicking. If you do, your hand movement will become more important than the click (which is rather defeating the purpose of Clicker Training!)
- Don’t reach for treat as clicking
- Dogs watch closely our body language: If you lean on your left leg towards the treats, the dog will anticipate.
- You will overshadow the click
- You can move randomly or stay still. Just don’t be predictable with your body language.
- If you preload your hand, you can’t move your hand at all!!!!
NOTE: Dispensing treats from the hand can happen in 2 ways: PRACTICE BOTH WAYS!
- Clicker in one hand with multiple treats in the other
- Clicker and treats in one hand and use the second hand to take one treat at time for feeding.
3. Find a Human Partner and stand facing each other. One of you will be the trainer and one the dog.
- Click partner for touching you
- Best to click a bit early, just as they are about to touch you.
- Click the movement rather than the distraction.
- Dog: Be random with your rhythm and pace.
- Notice that just when you think you know what the dog is going to do, he’ll do something different!
4. Now get your hungry pup to join you. This is just about delivering treats (no clicking) How many can you deliver in 30 seconds? NOTE: most cell phones today have a timer. See if you can use that so you don’t have to watch a clock.
- Not contingent on behaviour, just see how fast you can feed.
- Treat should slide down throat, no chewing
- Do you need better, softer or smaller treats?
- Could drop on floor at your feet if you have an enthusiastic mouther.
- Get away from other dogs if yours is stressed by close proximity
- You should be feeding 7 or 8 per minute. Anything less and you’ll lose the dog!
5. Feed dog for head movement. Now you want to add the clicker. Every time your dog moves his head, click and treat.
- NOTE: this is the beginning of learning how to shape behaviour.
- It doesn’t matter what or which direction.
- If they stare, turn head away; put your treats aside, clicker behind back.
- Make sure you pay attention to the rules of exercise # 2 about not moving the hand before you click.
- Again, put treats in different places as well as in different hands. Can you change/trade your clicker and treat hand??
6. Try all of these with treats in different places:
- From hand
- From container on table
- From treat bag