I have been fielding some emails and questions recently and I feel like I’ve been answering the same questions repeatedly. I figure I’d put together a short FAQ list … some of them are training specific questions… some are more personal… but all are frequently asked!
How long do you spend training each day?
Well, that sort of depends. NOT including working on agility or disc-dog training (which happens a few times a week), I normally spend 15-20 minutes with each dog everyday either working known behaviors, shaping new useless tricks (like blowing bubbles in water), or continuing to refine a variety of “in the works” tricks. Now these 15-20 minutes may be actual training sessions but they can also be while playing ball in the yard, gaining access to outside, practicing obedience behaviors while on a walk, or asking for behaviors before getting their dinner etc. If it’s an agility or frisbee day they’ll get two or three 3-5 minute sessions.
When you run a clicker-training class, don’t all the click noises confuse the dogs?
No. There are quite a few reasons that it doesn’t seem to bother them. There are many different styles of clickers and each one emits a slightly different noise both in pitch and volume. When the dogs are working with their handlers there are probably a few different indicators the dogs are picking up on that tell them which click is for them. They are probably noticing the small muscle movements we use to click the clicker, especially if it’s in view of the dog. What they are probably most in tune to is the location of the click. Dogs have really quite acute hearing (some breeds use their hearing to search for rodents under ground) and can tell where the click is coming from. Dogs learn that they are working with you and use their hearing to determine when a click comes from you. It may be surprising but I haven’t seen any problems of multiple clickers in a class.
When using a clicker, do you have to use it forever?
No… I use the clicker primarily in two instances. 1. I use a clicker probably 95% of the time when I’m teaching a brand new behavior–this is the real place where a clicker makes a difference in the learning process. 2. I use a clicker when I’m working in high distraction environments–using the clicker gets my dogs “seeking” part of the brain working and it becomes an additional reinforcer (my dogs will work for the click not just the food that follows so when I use the click it’s like giving two reinforcers.).
What’s it like with 6 animals in one house/where do they all sleep?
Life with 6 animals can be crazy… but it is also highly entertaining. We’ve got a nice mix of crazy with relaxed and that makes it very doable and enjoyable. Feeding time can be crazy with a chorus of mews/meows/squeaks and the dagger-like stares from two starving dogs.
Rio and Shayne sleep in my bed every night. Rio likes to sleep under the covers by my knees and Shayne curled up next to me by my head. The cats… well, Jefferson will sleep with me on occasion all night but mostly comes in my room right when I go to sleep and again in the morning. Panther generally sleeps on one of the 7 animal beds in the house… but when it’s cold she’s snuggling in my bed.
What trick should I train my dog next? I need an idea of something different…
A useful but still silly trick was teaching Shayne to take off my socks. It’s another party-favorite trick but it also quite nice when I’m feeling too lazy she’ll help me out!