Tuesday, May 11, 2010

So... The clicker it is.

Last night I went out to the yard armed with nothing but the clicker and a treat pouch -- no toys in sight. I wanted to compare the difference between Secret's enthusiasm with the clicker vs. my wayward attempts to get her excited about toys.

I still had the five-jump grid set up in the yard and I decided to go the back chaining route, starting with the final jump. Secret began with about as much energy as she usually does with jumps -- Fairly, "meh" about the whole thing. The difference with this session, however, was that after she got a few clicks for it, she suddenly thought, "hey, this is pretty cool!"

We moved our way down the line of jumps, working from both sides. Each time I added a new jump, we worked that particular jump as a single before adding it to the existing line. By the time we had worked our way to the start of the chute, she was getting pretty fired up about the whole thing and running down the line of 8" jumps. Stupid clicker.... I wish she'd care that much about toys, but I guess you do what motivates your dog.

We did a couple reps of the dog walk, including the hoops/jumps before and after it. I've had some issues with her not being interested in doing the obstacle after the contact, but she was much more enthusiastic with the clicker. She got so excited at one point that she actually broke her stay, something that RARELY happens with her (sometimes I can't get her to leave the start line...). It was nice to see her getting into it for a change.

After the dog walk, we worked bottoms on the a-frame and then I had her go all the way over it in each direction one time. She bailed off the side the first time for some reason and then it took some convincing to get her back on -- She kept going around and hopping up into her end position. She nailed her contact when I did finally get her to go over, and then she went back up in the opposite direction without any hesitation.

I still had some treats left in the pouch, so we did a little bit of teeter work (I haven't moved it up at all yet; I probably should start) and some stay/recall drills. She's getting good at holding her stay while I jog away from her and her recall was better in that she ran all the way to me (vs. jogging the last part). When I did a group stay/recall with the boys, however, she found the temptation too much and broke both times. Naughty girl, no treats for that! :o)

So what did I learn? I learned that for the time being, training will be more successful if I use the clicker and food rewards. Perhaps we can transition to toys once she is more confident and more value has been transferred to the obstacles themselves. I'll obviously keep working with her on toy drive, but I think it would be best to keep that and her agility work separate.


  1. What's wrong with the clicker? Why do you want her to respond to toys? That seems like they would be distracting?

    (Hi Kaiser!)

  2. The clicker is absolutely invaluable when it comes to trick training and the like, but for agility I was really hoping to build her toy drive. It's a more "interactive" reward that helps build drive and intensity -- where as food is actually considered a "calming" reward. Toys are also nice because they are easy to throw and reward when the dog is away from you, whereas with food they always have to return to you to get it, which makes it hard to reinforce them working away from you.

    Kaiser is completely food trained and he's done okay -- so it's not the WORST thing in the world. But most Border Collies are very toy driven and my freaky little girl doesn't really care. She's doing much better playing when agility isn't involved, so there is hope for her yet.