Introducing Beetle

Beetle mushroom 4

Beetle is the one who introduced me to Clicker Training.   For that, he probably should have been the first one to be introduced, but because he was there in the introductory years, he did not benefit from quality training.  I have learned a lot in his lifetime and I will always know how long ago I first held a clicker because it was in Beetle’s puppy class.

Somehow I had heard about clicker training before that, because I signed up for the course specifically because clickers were involved.  My most vivid memory of that class was at the test at the end.  The class was held in a gym with a slippery floor.  One of the things he had to do for the test was stay at one end of the gym while I walked to the other and wait for a recall.  Then when he came to me, he was to sit in front of me.  Well that little puppy came flying so fast and sat so promptly on the slippery floor that he did a complete back flip, landed in a sitting position, and looked up for his treat.  Sold!

That said, it was not a 100% Positive Reinforcement class- we also had slip collars, gave corrections and such methods which I would not use now and which I frequently have to explain to clients.  Now I have learned to use management in order to prevent unwanted behaviors, set things up so the dog can be successful so there is no need for punishment and to break things down into manageable goals.

Beetle has what I call “neck issues”.  He’s a tough  little dog who grew up with tough big dogs (Border Collies and Livestock Guardian Dogs).

Beetle picking black raspberries.
Beetle picking black raspberries.

He has been in his share of scuffles over sticks and tennis balls and doorways.  Somehow that left him with a neck which seizes up on him if he gets cold and curls into a tight ball.  So in recent years, he wears a blanket from about the first of October to the middle of May.  We live in a cold climate!  When I first started putting a blanket on him, he hated it.   Through the use of a clicker, not only did he learn to happily wear it, but also now voluntarily shoves his head into the neck hole and stands to have it snapped up.

He still has a great recall.  It didn’t stay consistent after his puppy class.  At the time I didn’t know how to deal with distractions, maintain the training, and use appropriate reinforcers.  But we resurrected the training when Eloise arrived.  Recently though, I have had to change his cue as he no longer hears me call or whistle.  I now clap my hands together where he can see me and that is the new cue to mean “come”.  I’ve also turned to other visual cues to communicate- since body cues are much easier for dogs than verbal ones anyway, using good training techniques has made it very easy to transfer the cues!

 

Advertisements