Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Clicker Training

The other day I saw a young man walking his German Shepherd down the street, click click clicking as he walked. It reminded me of a story I wrote about a local woman who has a seeing eye horse. (Yes, a miniature horse!) She trained her horse with a clicker. I thought this was very interesting, and it obviously worked well enough for her to feel confident following the guidance of this little horse in traffic, onto buses, and in busy buildings too. Well, maybe clicker training would work for Kelly and I, too!

Many of my friends also used clicker training for their dogs, so I decided to give it a try. The main behavior I hope to teach Kelly is a more consistent basic recall. She knows the command, but only responds when she feels like it. Yeah, I know. It's embarrassing. She really should be more obedient. And I know it's my fault for being lax and inconsistent with her. I admit, but now I'm trying to correct this.

So I went out and bought a good clicker, some tiny treats and an instruction book. I still am a novice about all this but the basic idea is: give the command, when the dog begins to respond with the correct behavior click. Don't click after, don't click for a command, click exactly when the dog is doing what you have asked her. Then give the dog a treat.

Initially I was to get Kelly to associate the click with a treat. This was a simple process, clicking randomly inside, outside, at various times of the day and always following up with a treat. Click! Her ears perked up, she ran right over to me, practically drooling. Success.

Now I am beginning to teach her to come when called. She runs outside in our fenced yard. I call her in, if she responds I click, then give her a treat. The trouble is, she doesn't always respond yet. I am not supposed to call and click repeatedly. If she doesn't respond, I'm supposed to walk away and basically ignore her. The trouble is, I still want her to come in! So anyway, I am still working on this process. I want to do it right, so I'm taking my time to read up and learn what is what. In the click! Kelly surely knows that means a treat is coming her way.

If you've had experience with clicker training, I'd love to hear from you.


  1. I've been up to my eyeballs in Lilly's recovery, so I just saw this post.

    We do a TON of clicker work. My guess would be you're looking for too much too soon.

    You have to break down the recall into smaller pieces or easier pieces.

    I would start working inside, with few distractions, from just a few feet away ... rather than going for a full-on, outside recall.

  2. Oops. Sorry that was me. I clicked post too soon. :o)

  3. Thanks Roxanne. I'll try as you suggest. And I've been thinking about Lilly. I hope her snakebite heals well. Tell her she's a good girl from me.


Kelly and Ike say thank you for your comments!