You have entered the world of clickers! Beginning clicker training is a huge step in opening up the communication pathways with your dog. Anytime we can improve communication in any part of our lives, the results are always positive. If you have not begun Phase 1, click HERE to to get started. For those who have a solid week of loading the clicker under their belt, lets move on to phase 2.
To be certain your dog has a keen understanding of what the click means, wait until your dog is looking away and click. If his/her head spins around and they look to your hands for the food, you are good to go! If not, then you might have some more loading to do.
Your First Behavior
Before we can start with teaching the dog the valuable skills she will need to be a great member of your family, we need to teach you how to use this loaded up tool you have in your hand. With that theme in mind, the first behavior we will work on is going to be very simple and will not have much of a real world application. You will teach your dog to step on a bucket lid.
Why on earth would I want my dog to step on a bucket lid?
I can’t think of a single reason why you would want your dog to step on a bucket lid! Which is exactly why this is going to be the first behavior you teach your dog. Remember, you are brand new to this and really have no clue what you are doing.
Why do jet pilots fly in simulators first as opposed to sitting down in a $150 million dollar plane?
When you make a mistake, wouldn’t you rather make one while teaching a behavior you won’t ever need in the future? We will use this rather useless behavior to shape YOUR skills at using the clicker to mark a behavior.
This is the time to screw up and make mistakes. The good news is that this stuff is so painfully simple to understand. The challenge is in the consistency and patience. Let’s get down to business.
Time to Train
- go to your usual training area and place the bucket lid on the floor near the corner
- back up so that there is enough room for your dog to get in front of you
- face the corner and look straight ahead
- sooner or later your dog will venture in front of you, and the MOMENT one paw hits the lid, you CLICK & treat
- step away for a couple seconds then return to the exact same spot and repeat steps 3 & 4
- do this for no longer than 2 minutes
- REMAIN 100% SILENT THE ENTIRE TIME
Remember, the whole point of using a clicker it so make it easier to tell your dog when they have done something you like. Later on, you will be using this to teach them to sit anywhere anytime, to lay down anywhere anytime, to go to a specific spot in the house anywhere anytime.
This is the perfect exercise for you to learn about the word “approximations”.
The purpose of the bucket is to teach you how to go from your dog simply touching it with one paw, to eventually running over and jumping on it with two front paws every time, no matter where you put it.
In the very beginning of this training exercise you will click if they so much as brush up against it with one paw. That is the minimum requirement. Once the dog is doing this every time, you will then up the ante by requiring a little bit more and a little bit more.
By SLOWLY requiring more, the dog will develop the behavior. You are “reinforcing” what you want and ignoring everything else. Already your imagination should be starting to swim with regards to the endless potential this has for you and your dog.
For now the ONLY thing you are allowed to change if you think your dog is ready (which probably it isn’t you’re just in rush) is to gradually move away from the corner. Leave the bucket lid there and simply take one, yes ONE , step back. That’s it.
Patience Young Jedi
I am not going to explain how to progress any further yet. Why? Because too many of you will do it too soon! People very frequently move too fast through these phases. They do so either out of impatience and not understanding that it takes time or they simply overestimate their dogs understanding of the situation.
If you are chomping at the bit, great! Simply do more repetitions. The only thing you are allowed to change is your standing distance from the lid.
If you can master this exercise, the rest is going to be amazingly easy for you. Now is the time to develop the timing of your clicks. Never forget this rule:
What you click, is what you get.
This means that if you wait a second to long, and you click as the dog lifts its paw, you reinforced getting OFF the lid, instead of on it. Be observant, be precise, be decisive.
Now go train.
ok. ok…ok….I made a little video clip to show you how it’s going to look. The dog I’m currently handling, Catana, has never seen a bucket lid, so she is perfect to show you how to get started.