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Shirley's Clicker Training Lessons
Lesson 4 - Target Time

Here it is, lesson four. By now, your dogs will have had lots of practice in Doggie Zen, I hope. As usual, I'll describe the exercise and give you a few questions to answer.

I call this "moving attention." You hold a treat in your hand and shape the dog into looking at a specific target. Many obedience trainers are obsessed with having the dog look them in the face, to the point they neglect to teach the dog to look in other directions. And then they wonder why they have problems with retrieve (particularly directed retrieve, where the gloves are placed by a steward, instead of the handler throwing the dumbell) or go outs or jumping (particularly the broad jump)! <snort> They don't seem to understand that you get what you reinforce.

The first step is to hold the treat in your hand out at your side. And wait. Most dogs (that love food) will stare at the treat. Just wait. Keep your mouth shut (or I will visit your home personally with my trusty roll of duct tape <mwahahaha>). Wait. Eventually the dog will glance away from the treat. Click and treat! Repeat.

When the dog has figured out that looking away from the treat is what you're clicking, then start shaping the dog to look at a specific target. In the beginning stages, pick one target for each training session and change targets only between sessions. Include targets that are not on your body in your variety of targets. For instance, one session you have the dog look at your other hand (the one without the treat). The next session, you shape the dog to look at your face. The next session, shape the dog to look at the table next to you. The next session, shape the dog to look at your left knee. The next session, shape the dog to look at the door. The session after that, shape the dog to look at the elbow of the arm holding the food. And so on.

These sessions shouldn't be long--just long enough to get the dog looking at the chosen target for that session several times.


Questions for Lesson 4

  1. Describe what clues you get that tell you what the dog is looking at; in other words, how do you know what the dog is looking at?
  2. Could you have trained this before training Doggie Zen? Why or why not?
  3. With most dogs, it's distinctly harder to either teach them to look at your face or to look at a target off your body. Which type is your dog? And does this correlate to what you learned about your dog in Lessons One and Two?


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