My name is Hannah and I work as a Helper at Canine Comprehension. I have a little Lakeland terrier called Archie, he is now 9 months old and he began his training at puppy school with canine comprehension when he was 13 weeks old. It has been a challenge, shaping his behavior from wild and boisterous to mainly polite, but also very rewarding.As part of my job, those of us working for Canine Comprehension have received special training with Sarah, our boss on how to use clicker and treat training. When I say treat training, I do not mean using treats as a reward for good obedience training, as here at Canine Comprehension we have a strict belief that obedience is like good behavior in children, it is expected and rewarded only with verbal praise. However, when doing clicker training we are asking more of the dog, we are asking them to do tricks and to think outside the box.
The first step was clicking the clicker and then giving food, step two was getting the dogs to look for the food and then giving them a click when they did. The third was getting the dog to touch a coloured spot on the end of a ruler, once the dog had done this they got a click and a treat. We then added a word to this action. In this case we used the word “touch” to signal to the dog that they should touch the end of the ruler. What the dog touches does not matter, but we use a ruler for clarity for both the dog and the owner to begin with. This action can then be moved to other objects.
When we started teaching Archie clicker training, he had no idea what was going on. He was getting food, for nothing! It blew his doggy brain. So as Sarah began to move on to encompass the three first steps in the one lesson, Archie was getting nowhere. He was still stuck on… food! All the other dogs in the class were progressing quite well, and I was simply looking at Archie and thinking, I have a dumb dog! Having spent more time and put more effort into him now, I just think of him as a slow learner when it comes to things he doesn’t understand, which makes perfect sense as we all have those things which we don’t understand and have trouble learning. So Archie and I went home and began the challenge of learning something completely new for the both of us and ended up having lots of fun along the way.
Over two days Archie and I practiced step one in multiple short sessions. With each passing session Archie grew more confident and keen to practice. At the beginning of step two Archie initially struggled with the idea of looking for the food, he expected it to be given to him for nothing as it was in step one. With a little persuasion, moving the food further from its beginning position (being next to the clicker) and watching for slight movements Archie began to get the hang of step two. This we spent a few days on, to consolidate his understanding and then we moved onto step three. To begin with Archie was lost. He had no idea what was going on, and how a ruler got into the equation. To counteract this confusion, we began by touching the ruler to Archie’s nose. I did this until he got a rough idea of what he was meant to be doing. Then it became a bit of a waiting game for me. I would hold the ruler out until he remembered that he had to touch the ruler with his nose. Each time I had less time to wait as Archie understood what was happening, at some points he was touching it faster than I could reset the trick and so I had to begin hiding the ruler until I was ready for him to touch it.
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