I love that my dogs try things…that they experiment and offer. Recently a friend offered a clicker class to some folks who have never tried Clicker Training (in its proper form, some had used the clicker before) and I decided to go for some fun and a nice casual evening.
We started by playing 101 things to do with a box, a game that Rio is familiar with and one he’s played many times before. I wanted a new behavior so I ignored all the things he’s done before (2 in the box, 4 in the box, 2 on the box, 4 on the box, head in the box, etc). He went through many things I’d already captured … got a little frustrated gave a few barks, and then stepped on the box and made it tip up–CLICK! He tried a few new things (push the box, pick up the box, go around the box) before tipping the box up again–CLICK! Within just a few minutes he was reliably stepping on one side of the box and tipping it up onto its side. He had a blast offering things left and right.
I looked around the room and most of the other dogs and handlers were struggling with this concept. I watched a shepherd just stare at his handler for probably 3 straight minutes trying to get some sort of hint from his human. Now I’m not sure any of these dogs were “crossover” dogs (so the handler had previously used physical punishments) but they were not clicker savvy dogs. Dogs and handlers were a bit lost in this whole game… the dogs were reluctant to offer any behaviors and many of the handlers were really uncomfortable with the idea of not helping the dog through the process.
Since Rio has never been punished for trying things, he is more than willing to give things a shot and be creative. Sometimes he may get stuck on the most recent things we shaped/captured (things not under stimulus control), but he will eventually try something new. This creativity and willingness to try is one of the many things I love about clicker training. It makes learning and training so much fun when he’s such an active part of the work. I also noticed such a distinct difference between dogs who had been trained using lots of lures. They seemed unable to take charge and offer a behavior without being cued. What was really interesting to watch was the body language of the handlers … some seemed so uncomfortable trying to hold their hands down and not help their dog with a lure or gesture of some sort.
This concept of offering new behaviors is one of the many reasons that I love Clicker Training.