Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Capturing the Moment

That's what they say the whole point of the clicker is. It's to be the marker for your beasty to let him/her know that what they just did is exactly what you want.
I have to admit, when I first heard of clicker training, I was a skeptic. I thought, what I'm sure most newcomers to clicker training think, "why can't I just use my voice?" "But I don't want to carry that thing around with me all of the time for the rest of my dog's life." "But I want my dog to do what I want without treats/rewards Etc." ...and on and on.
The turning point for me was taking a basic obedience class with Aria, our miniature Dachshund. I had been doing some reading before we went and wanted to give this clicker thing an honest try. I have to tell you, the first time your dog has her "ahah!" moment after you've clicked, you will never go back.
And just a side note: you don't carry the clicker/treats/rewards around for the rest of your dog's life...unless you are so keen on training that you never stop. The clicker is a training tool. When you come home from work you don't bring the tools of your trade with you, do you? Well, okay. Perhaps that was a poor example, but you know what I mean.
Anyway, my point is: I have been trying to re-train Hermione. She has learned that her high pitched "woo wooing" is an effective way to communicate and get what she wants/needs. A few days ago I started her on targeting. This is going well and with the suggestions of some very brilliant puppy raisers (thank you), things are going much more smoothly in that department.
As for teaching her not to bark when she wants water...well, that's been another matter. Not because she hasn't given me the opportunity to train, but mostly because I'm human and I make mistakes too.
When Hermione is thirsty she has two ways of letting us know.
1. She squawks until we get off our butts and give her water. If she refuses the water it means she wants something else. Usually you know it's water because she goes to the baby gate that blocks the living room off from the rest of the house.
2. If there is a doggie bowl about, she'll dig in it.
I prefer method number two. And, since I am trying to teach Hermione to use her voice less, I thought this was a better, already existing, behaviour I could teach her. That said, this has been a learning curve for me too.
The first day I tried to implement this new training regiment I thought I was all ready. I had my handy dandy clicker strapped to my wrist via a stretchy wrist band thingy Kim gave me and I had the water bowl on the side of the gate Hermione could actually get to. Unfortunately, no click was forth coming. It wasn't because she didn't dig, because she did. It was because when she started to go clackedy clackedy in her bowl, my hands were covered in chicken wing sauce and I couldn't click. I verbally praised her and got the water as quickly as possible, but I don't think the association was made.
Day two wasn't successful either. Again, due to human error. This time I thought that the water bowl was accessible, but it wasn't. The worst part was because I thought she could get to it, when she squawked insistently at the baby gate I ignored her for like 20 minutes hoping she'd get frustrated and dig. Finally, I gave in because it's water, a necessary thing for life, and I discovered that I had in fact forgotten the water bowl on the other side of the gate. Bad human.
Big fail.
Day three came with new opportunities. Remembering my own mistake the day before and unfortunate timing the day before that, I sat poised all morning. At lunch time she was wandering about and I heard her go near the water bowl. I had the sense to actually put my food down this time and sat with my thumb hovering over the little clicker pushy bit. She visited the bowl three times before I heard the whack, whack, whack of little paws. I got the click off and she stopped dead.
I'm not entirely sure she knows yet what it means, but I certainly got her attention. I got up from the table and filled her water bowl; her reward for giving me the behaviour I so much prefer over high pitched, persistent woo wooing.
My three day wait for one click was so worth it. I don't know if it was an "ahah" moment for her yet, but she certainly paid attention. I could feel her pausing and thinking; probably wondering what the heck's gotten into her mama.  I know we need a few more successful clicks before it will sink in and hopefully replace the barking-as long as I remember to keep a water bowl within reach of her little feet-but it was such a cool moment to have her stop so instantaneously. I actually managed to capture the moment exactly.
How cool is that?

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