Monday, 11 February 2013

Zazu Clicker Training - Week 1

We have recently started a new clicker training class with Zazu.  This a distance learning course at  Every couple of weeks we have new tricks to learn.  We film our attempts at the tricks and send videos of them to the trainer.  She then looks at the videos and gives us tips and advice on how to improve.

For those that don't know what clicker training is, it is a method for teaching dogs tricks:  Basically, you have a 'clicker' and a pile of treats.  The clicker is a small device that clicks when you press the button.  The idea is to condition the dog so that when they hear the click they receive a treat.  So when trying to teach them new tricks, you use the click to tell them they have done right, then give them a treat.  Using the click is more accurate than using words to let the dog know that they have done something you approve of.

We are given 5 tasks every two weeks to work on.  To start with we had to condition Zazu to the clicker by clicking and treating lots.  The hardest part about starting is getting the dog to think.  The whole point is that the dog has to think about what they have to do to get the treat.  When we started with a touch lid on the floor, Zazu would just look at, sit, squeak, and walk off.  We had to show him a little then give him a treat.  After a few goes he would go back on his own accord.  He the learnt to try things out to get a treat.

The first week we had 5 tasks:

1. Recall
2. Not looking at treats
3. Feet in a box
4. Touch pad with feet
5. Frog legs

Here is the video of Zazu training the basics of these tricks.  It's quite long but shows how Zazu has gone from nothing to starting to understand the tricks.

1. A recall is fairly self explanatory, get the dog to come back!
2. This is requires a pile of treats on the floor with the idea being the dog to not focus on them.  When the dog looks away from the treats or at you, the they get a click and a treat.  Zazu picked this one up quite quickly.  It is a good start to clicker training as they can get lots of treats by not having to do too much.  It is a big start to condition the click-treat reaction.

3. This is trying to get all four feet in a box.  We started with a big box and progressively get smaller until the box is only just big enough for his feet.  We are down to a lunch box size now.  We would start by clicking every time he showed any interest in the box, then for putting a foot inside, then for getting all feet inside.  This did take a few days to get his feet in.  We reduced the size of the box to a lunch box size and went through the same routine, all be it a it quicker.  It did still take a while for him to get all four feet in as he had to think about what he was doing.

4. The touch point followed a similar routine to the box, clicking whenever he showed interest in the pot lid, then for one foot, then two feet.  He did get there with two feet on a Tupperware pot lid.

5. This trying to get the dog to stretch out their back legs whilst lying down.  We haven't had much time to do this with Zazu.

He is working nicely now and has started to think about what he is doing.  It took him a while to get to that stage but a bit of perseverance helped get him to a point where ha can now learn.