I have a young Papillon, Harry Potter, in training to be Peek's replacement as a service dog. At 13 months, he's showing extraordinary potential. He is a master at throwing behaviors to be reinforced, and picks up stuff so quickly at times I look at him and wonder if he's a Border collie.
Like last night watching TV. An ad came on, and Harry Potter was lying in my wheelchair as I sat on the couch with Tim. He woofed quietly at a sound outside the window, when a neighbor dumped trash into the dumpster. I had my clicker in hand, and captured that quiet woof. Then I sat there as he processed the information for a couple seconds, drilling me with his gaze, and he offered another quiet woof while looking me in the eye. I captured that and we were off—in 12 clicks during the TV ads, he had the behavior nailed. By the next group of ads, I added the cue. During the rest of the ad breaks, we practiced with the cue and he had it down pat.
Praise the power of the click! This boy is going to have quite an impressive repertoire of behaviors to use for service, therapy and freestyle by the time he matures!
Debi Davis, service dog clicker trainer
Karen Pryor comments: More and more we are seeing that some animals learn to regard the click not just as a promise of reward but as useful information about the behavior itself. Instead of laboriously learning a behavior by small increments or many repetitions, the animal is able identify the behavior on the first click offer it, test the parameters (Loud? Soft? Here? There?) and then to assimilate and remember a cue, in just a handful of clicks. I call it speed shaping, but it's also a form of communication-one that animals seem to love. The sooner a dog picks up on this, the more he can learn. Many clicker trained service dogs understand and respond to 150 cues or more, and often think up and test out new behaviors on their own. Sounds like Debi's new Papillon is on that path!