I recently posted a video showing Teddy's progress on learning to run to his kennel on cue. Someone emailed me and asked me how I taught Teddy to go into the kennel. They were interested in the very beginnings of the behavior.
So I thought I'd show you just how you start teaching this behavior (or any behavior).
What you'll see on the video is called shaping. Basically, you mentally slice the behavior into lots of tiny pieces. If I want Teddy to go into the kennel, he'll first have to look at the kennel, then move toward the kennel, then place one foot in, two feet, three feet, and finally all four feet will be in the kennel.
Shaping lets you teach the dog each little tiny piece of the full behavior which makes the training process a whole lot easier (and faster).
The dog needs to know what specific behavior he should repeat. That's where the clicker comes in. The click tells the dog precisely what earned the click (and subsequent treat). Dogs aren't dumb – they'll do that same thing again in order to get the click and treat. The more they're doing the behavior, the more you're clicking and treating, and the more the dog does the behavior — the cycle begins!
You'll notice in the video I don't do a whole lot of talking or moving. I call shaping the "lazy trainer's dream," because the trainer only has to observe, click, and treat. That's it! In fact, the more you move and talk, the more distracted the dog will be (and the slower the learning).
Watch as Teddy figures out what I want him to do. I click him first for just looking at the crate. I ignore anything else he does (laying down, for instance). I let him figure out what to do, what pays. Also pay attention to his tail – see how happy he is? He really enjoys training and figuring out how to make me click.
This is the first in a series of videos on the basics of clicker training. We'll get into other aspects (cues, fluency, stimulus control, etc.) in future videos. If you don't know what these words mean, don't worry – you will after this series is over. And better yet, you'll be able to use it with your dog to create a beautifully behaved canine friend! [If the video below is cut off on the right side, double click the video and it will take you directly to YouTube where you can watch [and read] the whole video screen.]