Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Skipped clicker training

I never really clicker trained my dogs.  They both know what the clicker is (mostly to mark a correct behavior),  but I never spent a lot of time using it.  Now that I know what I know, I wish I had.

When we first got Bentley he was 7 months old.  I don't think he first saw the clicker until he was over 1.  At that time, he was already a slower thinker, and I remember sitting and waiting him out to try to get him to just move his leg one little muscle (we were trying to teach a high five using the clicker).  It took so long!  He would literally just sit there and not move for minutes on end.  Then, once he (sort of) understood offering behaviors, he would offer stays.  So he would try a couple things, then lay down and not move a muscle.  Hard to mark something when he thinks he's in a stay!  At the time I thought "he doesn't get it, this isn't for him", and we sort of gave up.  Little did I know that I think it would have really helped him if I had continued to wait it out.

Lexi, on the other hand, used to offer me behaviors constantly.  If we were at the agility field waiting our turn and I even so much as made eye contact, she would sit, down, spin, etc...waiting for her cookie.  I was scared of asking and rewarding her for offering behaviors since it was already becoming a nuisance.

I do still use the clicker occasionally, but my dogs' thinking isn't the same.  Bentley still isn't very creative, and usually tries a couple things before he gets frustrated (looks at me, lays down and whines).  And Lexi is so busy throwing herself every which way that it becomes hard for me to mark the "right" thing--and I'm sure just as hard for her to understand which of her offerings was marked.

I just clicker trained them to offer getting into a box.  I started with a big shoe box--not too bad.  Then I changed it to their smaller toy box--not too bad (though much slower than your typical clicker trained dog).  And I just changed it to a tupperware bowl to see if I could get them to even put 2 feet in.  It was hard work!  I quit our short session this morning with Lexi putting 1 foot in (I was quite busy chasing the bowl around as she kept pawing at it), and Bentley touching it with his foot.

So because of my lack of clicker training, my dogs know very few tricks.  I don't feel guilty, per se, but do wish I had done more when they were puppies.

Clicker training is hard.  I give up.  Zzzzz...


  1. I do think that clicker training makes the dog really figure out what you want them to know. But its not the only way as Im sure you are aware of. Guiness just doesnt get shaping at all. He learns much better with luring. But he really wants that food so he is learning how to get it faster. My other two dogs luring doesnt work. They follow the treat but arent really learning what I want. They both do better with shaping. So I think it just depends on the dog.

  2. Ricky is my first dog and I didn't clicker train either. I was oblivious and thought clicker training was something I didn't need. But it's ok - he learned "yes" as a marker and I did lure lots of tricks with him. We still built a bond working on tons of tricks and behaviors and I don't think the lack of clicker training was a hindrance. It is never too late for dogs and people to learn new things!

  3. Thank you for popping by our blog. I enjoyed reading your blog and love your beautiful shelties Bentley and Lexi.

    Personally, I think all training needs a lot of patient. I believe in clicker especially I want to teach a new behaviour. My old boy Sing (10) is very much like your Lexi, he will throw himself for everything he knew when he sees me get a clicker and treat out. It takes a lot of effort to calm him down before he would actually show a brand new behaviour. Sometimes, I just have to walk away and come back to it. He is a clicker train dog as a puppy and my very first dog. I have also have a "Bentley" and it took me forever to wait for her to "click" but once she clicks, everything comes easy :)

    I use clicker a lot when I am teaching a new trick or a new behaviour but once we are in the Agility field, I used "good" as a marker.

  4. I left an award on my blog for you. ( Its a game and if you dont want to play, it wont hurt my feelings). Merry Christmas!

  5. I wish I had known about clicker training when my dog was younger too! And also I wouldn't have taught her "down" as the first trick! I think whatever you teach them first with the clicker is really, really ingrained in their mind.