ClickerSolutions Training Articles

Newbie Success

I'm a newbie to this group, and I'd like to start out with a success story.

Two months ago, I got my first dog, a Miniature Australian Shepherd pup. Chinook is now 4 months old. For six months before I got him, I browsed the web, trying to find out how to train my new dog, and of course, getting mighty confused. I finally settled on the Dunbar method, as it appeared effective and humane. Chinook and I also enrolled in a puppy class that emphasized the Dunbar method. He quickly learned to Sit, Down, Come and Stay using the "traditional" positive approach, using lures and hand signals. He is a really sweet, friendly and intelligent puppy, a total joy to have.

It was only when I was having absolutely no success in getting the Chinook to "fetch" that I turned to clicker training. As a herding dog, Chinook loved running after other dogs in the park, but showed absolutely no interest in going after balls, sticks, frisbees, etc. I tried waving the object in front of him excitedly, ran after the ball myself to show him how it's done, used the frisbee as his food dish... you get the idea. Nothing. If it was dead, he was not interested. It was hard getting him to even look at the object. That's when I "resorted" to clicker training, and the results blew me away.

I got a little rubber dumbell and tossed it on the ground. Because it was new, Chinook went over to sniff it. Click & treat. "Oh goody! A treat!" Go back to sniff the toy. Click. "Oh boy! Another treat!" You all know how the drill goes. Chinook went from sniffing the toy to plopping it into my lap within 30 minutes. The next day, he learned to place it in my hand. The next day, he learned that I was a total clutz so he had to be really careful and persistent in placing the toy in my hand. Then he generalized without training to retrieve a thrown stick, outside in the park, with some other dogs milling about in the distance. Great, I thought, and tossed a little cloth frisbee. Chinook looked at me, sniffed the ground, and ignored the frisbee. So last night, when friends came over to visit, I showed them Chinook's new retrieving abilities with the dumbell, and while we ate cake, I clicker trained Chinook to retrieve the frisbee in the living room. Again within half an hour, he was not only retrieving the frisbee, but actually trotting out halfway to try to catch it mid-air. He was clicked for bringing back the frisbee to my hand, but the mid-air catch seemed strictly self-rewarding (plus he got lots of ooohs, aaahs, and "good boy!").

This experience has made me into a total Clicker Training convert. I just wish I had clicker trained Chinook to do all the basic commands like Sit, Down, etc., since he is still very unreliable on the commands when they are given only verbally, and even when he does Sit or Down, I can practically see him thinking, "Okay, she said something, and she's looking at me like she's expecting something. I think I'll plant my butt and see what happens... hmm, nothing. Alright, I'll go lower and see what happens."

Another thing I was having trouble with teaching him using the more traditional method is walking on a loose leash. I tried the "usual" method of turning the other way as soon as he forges ahead, but after about three changes in direction, the pup figured out what was going on, and instead of paying more attention and staying close, he plopped himself down flat on the ground and looked up at me with baleful eyes as if to say, "I'm not taking another step until you figure out where you're going." LOL. In puppy class, the instructor showed us a modified version of that, with was to give a reprimand ("Uh-uh!") and back up quickly to where the pup first made his "mistake" and then move forward again. Seemed to work with most of the other puppies, but Chinook again clued into the "game" and -- Plop! -- refused to play. So I've started reading up on clicker training a dog to walk on a loose leash, and I'm really looking forward to trying it out on our next walk.

Sorry about the long post, I just want you all to know how excited I am about clicker training method, and that even a beginner like me could get it to work!

Happy clicking!

Etsuko Amano
etsuko@artifexfurniture.ca
copyright 2002 Etsuko Amano

 

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