Clicker Games – Part 2
by Naomi Heck
I hope you had a chance to try some targeting games with your dog this past month. Now I want to talk about another form of clicker training called capturing. It is a technique that allows the dog to figure out what gets rewarded with minimal input from you. Lessons learned by capturing have real sticking power because dogs remember problems that they have solved on their own. The concept is easy. You just click and treat (C/T) when you see your dog doing something you want her to do. You might find this challenging in the beginning because we are so used to telling our dogs what to do. There is no talking with this technique. And there is no touching the dog to maneuver him, either. Capturing requires patience, but the payoff is great.
I often use capturing games to teach self control to highly energetic dogs. It was my “go-to” training tool during the crazy first year with my GSP. Here are some ideas:
“Don’t Mug Me When I Have Food”
Enclose a treat in your fist and hold the clicker in your other hand. Put your fist right up to your dog’s nose for a second so she smells it. Now raise your fist 2 feet above her head and keep it there. If she jumps up, quickly pull your hand away. Put your hand back where it was, and if she turns her head away, looks at you, or sits, C/T. Whichever behavior your dog offered that showed impulse control, capture it. In later lessons, you can choose a slightly more difficult behavior, such as looking at you a little longer or lying down. Remember, you do not say a word.
“Rev Up and Calm Down”
This is a good way to exercise your dog and teach impulse control at the same time. A toy is the reward, so you don’t need treats for this one. German Shorthaired Pointers love to chase little critters, so I like using a stuffed toy attached to a rope. My husband made me a “flirt pole” by cutting a fishing rod short and attaching a rope to the end. I then tied a soft toy to the end of the rope. You could also use a section of pvc pipe for the pole. Or just use a long rope toy. Flick the toy around and let your dog chase it but not grab it. Then stop and hold the toy way up over your head so she can’t get to it. Wait for her to sit without saying a word. When she sits, say “Yes!” and immediately resume the game. Repeat this over and over, and soon your dog will be the fastest sitter in your neighborhood.
Instead of a toy, you could run around with the dog chasing you, then suddenly stop and freeze. Wait for her to sit (remember, no talking), say “Yes” (or click if using a clicker) and start running around again.
I like playing this game with kids. I have them run around (or walk if the dog is too rough). When I say “Freeze”, whoever is closest to the dog gets to click and treat when the dog sits.
If you capture any cute behavior your dog does (like a head tilt, play bow, even kicking up grass after pooping) with clicks and treats, and you will see that behavior happen more often. Have fun with it!
Next month’s topic will be the last and most complex kind of clicker game – shaping.