Tales from the funnies file
This happened almost two years ago but I'll never forget it. I was training my then 6-month-old female Boxer pup, Tir na nOg, and I was attempting to teach her to "Stay" on her bed. She knew the cue to "Go to her Bed" and if I asked for it she would do it.
This one night I happened to have ordered some takeout food and was sitting down on the couch to watch TV and eat. I asked Tir to go to her bed and while EXTREMELY reluctant she did it. She kept staring at me and wanting to get up to come over but I would give her the "Look" and she wouldn't move.
All of the sudden she let out a snort and got up, grabbed her bed in her mouth and dragged it over to the couch under my feet and sat back down on it. Perfectly positioned to "Stay" on her bed and still be able to share my dinner. CLICK!! How could I not laugh and reward that, talk about ingenuity.
Curiosity Clicks the Cat
Most people are aware that the Golden Retriever excels in obedience, tracking, retrieving etc. This all-purpose dog is well known for its intelligence and ability to obey instruction, and cats are well known for their ability to lie around all day and look pretty, right?
I was training Django, my golden retriever, to target a Post-It note stuck to the wall. He is well versed in touching a target stick, so I thought I could move pretty fast. I stuck the note to the wall and he licked it - click! Unfortunately it was a one-off. We just couldn't seem to get back to that Post-It.
The whole time Chloe, my black cat, was watching quietly. She does this well because she gets a random treat if she waits her turn. Django hit a dry-spell, where he hadn't progressed and I hadn't clicked anything for about 10 seconds. He lay down, gave me a grumble and refused to look at me - "Hrumphhh...." At this point Chloe walked over to us, stood on her back legs and touched the Post-It with her nose, Click! I moved the target and she did it again. I left the target where it was and said "Touch" and she did it again. I put the target on the floor, said "Touch" and she did it again. I put the target on the banister and she jumped up and did it again!
Did Django get the idea? I don't know, he went to sleep...
The Nurse Trap
I am a hospital volunteer. One day I arrived and was told immediately that the patient in 4B was giving candy to anyone who came into her room. Well, you can imagine the rapid response she got when her bell rang. Indeed, staff and volunteers began to offer behavior by sticking our heads in just to see if she needed anything. Since that day, I have called it a "nurse trap."
Now, whenever a friend enters the hospital, I provide a three-pound box of chocolate, with instructions on operating a nurse trap. Just offer candy the minute they come in the door. Insist that they take a piece for later, if they don't want one now.
Most people are surprised at how well it works (I know other clicker trainers will just smile). One friend told me that her doctor visited her no less than three times a day—as long as the chocolate held out!
Clicking with My Dogâ€¦and Cats?
I am new to clicker training. Today I had the first session with my dog and already I've run into a problem. I'm training Buddy, my miniature poodle, to touch the ball at the end of a target stick. Unfortunately, the noise of the clicker was like a magnet to my cats (I have 10). They all came running and several tried to join in.
Since my dog is even smaller than most of my cats, it was impossible to hold the target stick where Buddy could get the ball and not the cats. Even worse, as soon as a cat got within a few inches of the ball, Buddy deferred to the cat and backed off. So I ended up letting the cats touch the ball, clicking for them and giving them the dog treats. Then it just got too hectic—too many cats, too hard to watch and click for one, while fishing out treats for another. I had to shut all the cats out of the room. But...Buddy seemed to get it, even if it was mainly learning from observation.
I didn't start out with the intention of training my cats, but it looks like I don't have much choice. Everyone says cats are impossible to train, but I have 10 volunteers!