Kids and Clickers!

Ranger’s first family lesson was a great success!  We set out with an easy exercise to accomplish these goals:

  1. Remind Ranger what the clicker means
  2. Teach Ranger to respond to his name with eye contact
  3. Teach Ranger that ‘his’ children are worth listening to!

First, I got out the trusty deli turkey breast (low fat and yummy for dogs!!) and three i-Click Clickers. These are my favorite because they are easy to hold and press, even for kids.

Here is my little guy showing off his blue clicker:

The boy and his clicker

The boy and his clicker

Here is the girl and the delicious turkey:

The girl and her clicker

The girl and her turkey

Very important – when working with kids, explain the game to them FIRST before you bring in the distraction of a big fluffy slobbery critter!  And keep the game simple.  My instructions to the kids were:

In round one, we sit on the floor together.  We take turns clicking and delivering a treat into Ranger’s mouth with an open palm.

In round two, you kiddos move farther away onto chairs.  We take turns saying Ranger’s name, clicking as soon as he looks at us, and delivering the treat to him with an open palm.

Don’t get too complicated!  It will just make things harder. If you are coaching people, don’t over-explain.

After the rules were clear, I brought Ranger in on leash in case he got too excited or pushy, although it ended up being unnecessary.

Our plan worked great.  Ranger quickly remembered that a click means a treat is coming.

As an aside, please note that “charging the clicker”, or associating the click with a treat without marking a specific behavior with the click, only needs to be done a few times even with a novice dog. As soon as the dog hears the click and perks up to look for the treat, you are good to go and should begin clicking for behaviors rather than randomly.  It should not be its own long, drawn out process, and any book or trainer that tells you so is way behind on his or her research.

After the quick reminder game, we moved on to the second round.  Here’s a video of my guys working with Ranger on his name.

They have a few technique issues to work out – they are so excited to deliver the treat that they are showing it to him way too early – but we’ll get there!  When coaching both kids and adults, it’s important to make the process enjoyable and focus on what they are doing right, then add more precision step-by-step.  Nobody starts out perfect.

By the end of our session, Ranger was bouncing around between us working the training game like a champ, trading attention for clicks and treats.

And so ends day one.  We ended on a positive note – always try to stop training before dogs and people get tired or bored – and can’t wait til tomorrow!

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