Lessons Learned by a Newbie
I have had two revelations in the past few days, thought I'd pass them along as they might be useful to other clicker newbies like me.
The first is Don't Underestimate the Power of High Value Treats.
For weeks and weeks, practically since my first puppy class with my now-6-month-old Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Laykey, I've been treating with homemade liver biscuits.
They seemed to excite her at first but have become progressively ho hum. But things were going pretty well, especially in kitchen games, so it never occurred to me to try anything else.
Then, about a week ago, I was mashing some hamburgers for the freezer, and decided to try an experiment. I took a small piece of raw burger, grabbed pup, clicker and leash, and went out to the driveway to do a little loose leash practice.
It blew me away. What a difference! I now know what it means to *really* have my pup's attention! She walked right at my left leg, face glued to mine, up and down the driveway.
Suddenly: dog across the street. Laykey (anxious around other dogs) turns, lunges, barks. I call her name -- head snaps back to face me. "Oh, that's right, hamburger!" Forgets there's another dog anywhere else on the planet.
Not only that, but days later, the effect is still evident -- even tho I don't carry raw hamburger with me on my walks, LOL. Have enough trouble managing bits of cheese! But it doesn't matter. It's like that one, short session grooved her somehow. I've become the maybe-raw-hamburg-lady.
Second thing. I used the clicker to teach Laykey several behaviors within a couple days of bringing her home, including sit and down.
But lately I've noticed she is pretty weak on her down. We go out for a walk, I stop periodically to run through her growing repetoire, and sometimes she downs, sometimes not.
Then: I suddenly realized: I tend to bend forward when I say "down."
LOL. I've cued the dog with body language, not a verbal cue! So when I say down, without bending, and she looks at me like she has no idea what I want, she's right!
So I guess I have to fade the bend-at-the-waist, eh?
You know what the best thing is?
There are rules! Real rules! And they work. If something isn't going right, it's possible to analyze what you've done, and put together a solution.
I was thinking back on my last dog, Dobie cross. How frustrated I used to get! There were things she did that made her so hard to live with, and it seemed like there was nothing to be done. You had to prevent it or live with it. Emptying trash cans, strewing garbage. Barking at doorbells. Things dogs do . . .
I could literally cry, it's so nice to think there are actually answers, and they don't involve shock collars, yelling, all the other techniques you have to consider when escalating "corrections" is your only tool . . .
So any other newbies out there, recent listers -- sometimes it might seem like something your dog is doing is unfathomable, like there are no answers. But don't give up! One day, something someone posts on the list, or something you remember from reading somewhere, will suddenly click, and you'll figure out exactly what you need to do!
Happy weekend, all.
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List and Site Owner: Melissa Alexander, mca @ clickersolutions.com