Monday, February 21, 2011

Living with a shy dog: clicking with Jenny

I am clicking everything with Jenny now! The click marks the behavior which I want to reward. If I just toss her a treat when she does something I want to reinforce, she has a harder time knowing exactly what she did right. Of course, I could mark the behavior verbally (when I don’t have the clicker on me I will say “yes”), but research has shown that animals learn faster with a clicker, perhaps because it takes less mental processing.

The click is obviously not rewarding itself; it is rewarding because it is always followed by a treat, so that she has a strong association between the click and food. The rule is that you must always reward after clicking. If you click the wrong thing by mistake, tough; you still have to reward. With Jack, who is more savvy at this game, I sometimes reward by throwing his favorite toy for him.

What am I clicking Jenny for?
  • Coming into the kitchen while I am making food
  • Touching my hand with her nose while I am holding out her harness open as if to put it over her head
  • The Boy clicks her for responding to him saying her name. Because he is a martial arts instructor, he has a very good sense of how to reward small progressions in physical responses, so he is clicking just as she starts to sit up in response to him.
  • Eye contact with me when scary things happen

Jenny on her second day with me

Jenny today: “Why did you put the clicker away? I was having fun.”

Go go clicker training!


  1. love your post!!
    it's almost incredible what clicker training can do for insecure dogs
    keep going!!

  2. Thanks! And your blog looks interesting — makes me wish I understood Spanish.