Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Click! happy

Whoo hoo! Waa heyy! Ahh rooo!

Monday night Marvin and I had a breakthrough. I know I've mentioned more than once that before, during, and after our agility runs my sniffer dog's focus on me and the task at hand has been waning. Even though I tried to remain upbeat (and was sure to keep my attitude with Marvin upbeat) I was feeling frustrated.
Well, during Monday's class I finally pulled a powerful tool out of our bag and we suddenly found ourselves on the same page.

Hail the clicker!

I use a clicker all the time at home when we practice tricks or I teach a new behavior. It's attention-getting and very positive feedback for the pups. They hear the click! and know good things happen. They love it and they pay attention.

But for agility?

I did actually think of trying it earlier but didn't act on it because I wasn't sure how to incorporate it into our agility practice. I thought about Silvia's seminar and how she interacted with La using the clicker while she spoke with us. She would ask La to do a trick or a short sequence and clicked and treated. La remained engaged, visibly asking "what's next?" as Silvia continued her lecture.

I realized I've been losing Marvin the second we left our seat and stepped out to the agility course. So the minute it was our turn and we took the floor, I clicked a brief moment of eye contact, then treated. Marvin's ears perked and there he was ... all attention on me. "What's next?" he visibly asked and I smiled from ear to ear.

So we played the Close Game (thank you Katherine ;), which is basically heeling (but doesn't the Close Game sound much more fun?!). We walked a couple paces, Marvin glued to my left side watching me with anticipation. I stopped. His butt plopped. I clicked and treated. And we did it some more. We made it all the way to our first obstacle without so much as one sniff and we were both happy as can be!

Believe it or not he was hyped enough that once we started our run he stayed right with me, looking for direction. I found myself suddenly free to practice my handling techniques knowing that I had a dog who was engaged and running along with me! It was incredibly fun. I even got to practice my RFPs (Reverse Flow Pivot, isn't that a lovely name?) over and over again to the point where it actually made sense.

The boy got a world of praise and a jackpot of treats at the end of that run, and all the runs following. We played the Close Game back to our seat and I was proud as punch of that pup and myself. We connected.

I have goosebumps just thinking about it. :)


Blogger Amber-Mae said...

Oh, that's great! My hoomans have a clicker too but they never use it becoz they're not very sure how to use it properly or even when to click it & then give a treat & so on. Mommy clicked the clicker once to get my attention but I was not interested with it at all. None of us were so she chucked it back in the cupboard. But after reading your post, she might think of using it again becoz it gives positive reinforcements. But dies she need to praise too after clicking or while clicking it & then reward? Or just click then reward? How will I know that I'm doing it right too becoz the clicker could mean anything to me.

Love licks,
Solid Gold Dancer

March 5, 2008 at 10:06 PM  
Blogger JAZZ AND DIXIE said...

Well done Marvin! Mum has never tried a clicker with us but after reading you post she is thinking about where to get one here.
Jazz and Dixie

March 6, 2008 at 5:50 AM  
Blogger snoutbeagle said...

Hold tight, friends ... I'll do another post about using the clicker, hopefully later today.

I'm a huge advocate. I just need to find a good source to help me best explain introducing and using it (after I get my work done at work, of course ;)


March 6, 2008 at 8:54 AM  
Blogger BREW beagle momma said...

We love clicker training around our house! Mom has used it with me since I was 8 weeks old. . . . Sometimes she even uses it with the foster dogs we have staying with us- that's the most fun- watching the new dogs try to figure out the clicker! I help teach them though- that way we all get treats!! Karen Pryor and Pat Miller are our favorite people around here!

March 6, 2008 at 8:21 PM  
Blogger Gussie said...

Woohoo! Congrats on fixing Marvin's attention problem. Clickers are great, there's nothing like the moment when your dog gets it. Funnily enough I've got clicker post lined up as well ... Gus n Jake

March 7, 2008 at 5:33 PM  

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