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Dr. Ps Dog Training

How I Clicker Trained a Retrieve
by Vivian Bregman (bregman@interactive.net)
Copyright © 1998

Here is my method of teaching fetch to a puppy using a clicker. When my newest Border Collie (BC) was about two months old I rolled a tennis ball and she said, yea, a ball, so what. She was my fifth BC and my eighth dog in competition.

I rolled it again and she looked at it - c/t (click and treat). I had already taught her that the click meant a treat so she came to me for the treat as soon as she heard the click.

After four or five times I rolled it and didn't click when she looked at it. She looked at it, looked at me, and walked towards it - c/t.

Four or five of those and I didn't c/t when she walked towards it. So she walked up to it - c/t.

Four or five or those and I didn't c/t when she almost touched it - so she touched it - c/t jackpot (several treats at once). I rolled ball again. She ran up to it, touched it with her nose, and ran to me for the treat.

Four or five and no c/t until she moved it with her nose.

I think that you should have it by now --- slowly, slowly, step by slow step. She finally picked it up and I gave her a jackpot. Then I went to bed.

Next night I planned on starting from scratch but as soon as I rolled the ball she ran to it and picked it up and I c/t and she came for the treat. We played with getting her to bring it closer and closer for awhile that evening and she finally did.

The following night, going against everything that I knew, I rolled a dumbbell about three feet from me. She ran to it, picked it up by the bell and brought it back.

For the next ten months we worked on bringing it back by the bar and sitting in front. So far she has never refused to bring it back, although she often to returns to heel or to a crooked front, and, in fact, must be restrained from chasing everybody else's dumbbell in Open class. One week she chased and brought back another dog's dumbbell. I made no fuss - it was my fault for not holding her tightly enough. And I'm not about to punish her for retrieving.

By the way, I also use a metal and leather article as well as a glove now and then. I can't show her in Canada so I'm not bothering with the wooden articles. Hope this explains it.

While I'm NOT convinced that a dog can be trained using only the clicker, it does seem to clarify things for them. Although my timing is good after all these years, I don't think that I could have said "GOOD" fast enough to have done it. The clicker is a sharper sound.

I couldn't believe that in three nights she went from "So it's a ball, so what," to "Here's a toy, please throw it for me"! She's as much of a nuisance asking for toys to be thrown as any of my naturally compulsive retrievers. As of this point she is two and one half years old and has her UKC and AKC CDX titles and is still crazy for the dumbbell.


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