ClickerExpo in Los Angeles in January was a hit. In fact, we sold out. Our limit was 400 attendees, and we filled up.
Every year at ClickerExpo we save a few spaces for special guests: distinguished trainers, scientists, or leaders in other fields. This year one of our honored guests was Sue Ailsby, a very well known clicker trainer and teacher from Canada. I'd like to share with you one of Sue's posts to the ClickerExpo list after ClickerExpo Los Angeles.
Taking it home
The list discussion had turned to the training of herding dogs, and to a similar task, training the lead dog on a sled team for the sport called mushing. Sue opened this post by pointing out the key to training either type of work: teach the behaviors you need, and the cues for them, before you ever go out to do the job itself.
Sue writes: "I've done a lot of mushing, and a fair amount of herding. In my experience, the key to both of these is to train the behaviors you want before plugging them into the situation you want. A lead dog candidate, for instance, is taught left and right cues, go forward, go faster, slow down, stop, on by (never mind that small dog coming up on your left, keep going!), and to keep the lines taut—all before hitching to the sled, and certainly before adding any other teammates. Given a well-trained lead dog, most other dogs can simply be plugged into the team to take their cues from the lead as they learn â€˜on the job.'"
Sue is presently training two dogs for another kind of competition, drafting, or pulling a cart. Again, this is a sport in which the cues need to be taught ahead of time, outside of the actual situation. Sue describes the training tasks:
"I am training one Portuguese water dog for a novice draft title, and another for an advanced draft title. For advanced (Draft Dog Excellent), the handler walks behind the cart and guides the dog solely by voice and/or signals. She must pull 60 pounds-forward, halt, slow, left turn, right turn, and halt. Maybe a 180, too."
Sue attended the ClickerExpo session on modifier cues (as in big vs. small, forward vs. back, paw vs. nose) taught by marine mammal expert Ken Ramirez. Just LOOK what this expert accomplished with this new information in the first WEEK after getting home from ClickerExpo!
"I'm having a great time teaching the directionals, especially since hearing Ken Ramirez' discussion of modifier cues. I started with the younger dog, and after a week she's progressed to Left/Right nosetouch, L/R pawtouch, L/R go to mat, L/R retrieve from different sides of the aisle at Wal-Mart, L/R jumps (which will make my agility coach happy; I've been putting off teaching her THAT for almost a year), L/R tunnels, and also I'm walking next to a series of posts and cueing her to go to the L or R of each pole we pass. So at this point, if she knew nothing at all about weave poles, she could do them on voice cue! LOTS of fun!"
Lots of fun, indeed! Some people think ClickerExpo must be nice for beginners, but wouldn't benefit the really "advanced" trainer. My take is...maybe it depends just how advanced you really are!
Notes: Sue Ailsby has been quoted with permission from the ClickerExpo Yahoo Group e-mail list, February 7, 2007. (The ClickerExpo list is open only to people who have been registered attendees at one or more KPCT ClickerExpo conferences.) For more about and by Sue Ailsby, who also breeds, shows, and clicker trains llamas, visit her website, www.dragonflyllama.com. For more about what YOU might learn at ClickerExpo, visit www.clickerexpo.com.