Thursday, April 5, 2012

Why Clicker Training Rocks

Today we started serious work on Fetch & Drop It, April's Training Challenge for Genius Puppy Hurley.  I grabbed a squeaky ball, the clicker and dumped a handful of diced carrots on the counter.  Ready, set, train!

Hurley ran after his ball as I prompted "Go get it".  Actually, he meandered after it and pounced.  And then he brought it back, I asked for a "drop", he dropped it and got a click & treat.  Repeat.  Repeat. Repeat.  Wait...I thought this was something new we were training, right?  Guess Hurley pretty much has Fetch & Drop down.  So what to do now...

I decided to practice shaping using the clicker.  I am, by default, a trainer by lure.  It has always seemed like the quickest way to get the behavior I want and, other than encouraging sharkiness in relation to my hand, has been pretty successful for us so far.  But not all behaviors can be lured and I absolutely agree with the theories behind shaping as to its effectiveness in training by forcing your dog to think and problem solve.  Learning's a lot more effective and sticks when you have to figure something out for yourself.  It's about time that I added shaping to our training bag o' tricks.

I grabbed a box, a box barely big enough for Hurley to get in.  In fact, I had my doubts that all 4 paws of his 80 lb-ness would fit.  But, hey, we're just getting started - what are the chances Hurley's actually going to offer all 4 paws in the box today when he's never offered a single paw in a box, right?

It did take us over a half hour to get from one paw touching the box to all four in.  And the only time I helped was when he was stuck at the first paw in the box.  I told him "Other Paw" and he plopped his other front paw in the box immediately.  From there, it was just clicking and treating two paws in and any time a back paw went in.  From the second he got all 4 paws in at the same time, it was maybe 10 seconds until I got this:

 I had no hopes, no intentions of getting a sit in the box but apparently Hurley did.  So I started marking getting in the box with "In".  How the heck did we get from experimenting with shaping to verbally marking "In"?  a) Clicker training rocks and b) Hurley is a genius puppy.

We were out of carrots so I told him good job, gave him a kiss and hug and took myself a bathroom break.  A few minutes later, I came back out to Hurley, just sitting in his box.

I knows stuff!


  1. Go, Hurley!! Mom makes a click sound with her mouth, but I guess it's about the same thing, especially if there's some really good treats involved.

  2. OMG!!! I MUST SEE THIS! So proud of you, little shaper (and Hurleyman, too!)

  3. OMG!!! He's such a sweet heart, and so smart ... LOL
    What a great Trainer he got!!!!!!

  4. Oh geez, he is so cute! Nice work!!!

  5. I agree, clicker training rocks! Nice story and pictures and lovely dog. Kind regards, Karen Collars for Dogs