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Clicker Training for Your Pomeranians 

by Roberta Malott, Pondside

Part I: Happy Training

Shaping your obedience dog into a winner by using a conditioned reinforcer, without using physical corrections, will be the subject of this mini-series. It makes training a Ahappy@ time for you and your dog.  So arm yourself with a clicker or whatever you prefer to use but I would recommend the clicker. Bring some special treats (please ¾ not your pom=s regular kibble!) and let=s get some more pomeranians in that obedience ring. (Conformation people can use this too ¾ its not just for obedience). 

Shaping is a relatively new technique used for obtaining desired behaviors. Because it uses no physical corrections, the technique lends itself very well to our little breed. So we can get rid of the choke collars. Some of this training can be done with no collar at all, providing you are training in a secure, fenced area only, of course. 

In order to shape behavior rapidly and effectively, you must use a distinct signal, such as a touch or a noise that marks the instant the right action has occurred.  After the signal, puppy  is given something she likes, such as praise, petting, food or toys.  Although the food or praise tells puppy  you are pleased, the marker signal is actually more important because it tells her exactly what she was doing that earned the reward.  That information makes it highly likely that she will do the behavior again.  The noise must be distinct, something easily discernable from other noises puppy  hears regularly.  The toy clicker works very well, however, you can use a tongue cluck, a single word, however, the clicker is faster and much crisper. 

In order to make use of this conditioned reinforcer, puppy must become accustomed to the clicker and exactly what it means:  AI get a treat when I hear that click@.    To do this, take 10-15 minutes in a quiet spot.  Click, then immediately give her a treat. At this point, the treat should be something really tasty for her.  After several repetitions of this procedure, she will begin to associate hearing the click and getting a treat; that is what you want.  You see a little bell go off in her head.   AWow ¾ mom clicks - then I get a treat@.  Then you can begin shaping behaviors and all the exercises in obedience are just a series of "behaviors@ ¾ some just a little more complex than others. 

Unlike traditional training, with using the clicker and the treat ¾ the verbal cue for the behavior is not added until puppy is doing the behavior reliably. You do not tell puppy to Asit@ until you know that she will sit.  So remember ¾ no verbal cue for behaviors until puppy knows the behavior you are looking for.

TRICK FOR THIS EDITION: Teach your pom to Atake a bow@?

Get your clicker and treats in hand.  When your dog is just getting up from a nap, she usually stretches.  Catch this stretch ¾ click and give her a treat.  You might have to Acatch@ her a few times, but you will soon have a real cute Abow@!  After she is doing it reliably ¾ then and only then can you add the verbal cue to the behavior.  

Until next time, keep those clickers clicking. 

 ¾  Roberta Malott

Pondside Toys

Blenheim, On Canada

Part II: Butt Biters

This edition will be dedicated to everybody out there who has a little one who just lives for the chance to "jump up and bite your butts"!! Does that sound familiar to anyone? NO? Well I am embarrassed to have to admit that I have one who has "connected" a few times, and it does not make for "happy training".

It started as part of our reward based training. I have always believed a happy puppy will follow you anywhere. I surely did not want to take away his happiness at being by my side (or directly behind me) so when the first "incident" occurred ¾ I am quite certain that he perceived my "OUCH" and quick turn around as his "reward" for the behavior. Did not take many "incidents" to instill this behavior in him. He began to "jump" (I am sure he has little springs built into the bottom of his feet ¾ can clear 24" with no problem) at every opportunity that presented itself.

This is nothing to do with aggressive behavior or his being upset or nasty!! I wish to get that point across ¾ that is not tolerated from any of our dogs (another long training issue). This has everything to do with his wanting to be "near me" and his happy disposition. If I thought it had anything to do with aggression, I would use an entirely different approach. Still very positive though.

So, armed with lots of teeny treats, and my trusty clicker, out we went. A few times round the patio, did not take him long to start his "butt biting"! Definitely fun for him! Well ¾ I had different ideas for him. I was not looking for perfect heel position ¾ just somewhere on my left. You will remember that there is no cue at this point - he would not know any word I could attach to the behavior at this time.

Every time he was within my space, he got a click and treat. That was all we worked on for about 30 minutes the first day. I will not attempt to tell you that one training session had him cured ¾ but I think he had more of an idea of what is acceptable heeling behavior. This little boy has 6 points so he has not always done this. As this is just a new behavior, we have only had 3 training sessions to train it out ¾ but have to say that he actually is beginning to "think" about where he should be and not thinking about jumping at every chance he gets. This method of training actually helps the dogs "think". And we all know how well they think. They can learn almost anything!

TRICK FOR THIS EDITION: Teach your dog to ride a skate board 

Do you have a skate board? Kids get lots of kicks out of seeing puppies ride the skate board. Not too hard to teach your dog to do. Put puppy and skate board on the floor. Click and treat for the initial look at the board, click and treat when he looks at it again. Once he knows he will get a click and treat for looking at it, he will walk towards it. Click and treat. When he gets close to it ¾ click and treat. He gets a click and treat for touching it. He might have to go through each step many times ¾ click and treat each time. Remember ¾ NEVER CLICK WITHOUT THE TREAT!! You would not want to go to work without the paycheck at the end of the week would you? Click and treat for putting paws on it ¾ soon he will be riding! No cue until he is reliably doing the behaviour!!

Have fun with YOUR poms ¾ hugs to all!

 ¾  Roberta Malott

Pondside Toys

Blenheim, On Canada

Part III: “Happy Training” for Loose Leash Walking

 Does this sound familiar?  Do you dream of walking without your dog pulling or lagging at the end of the leash?  I know this is my ultimate goal.  A dog that is walking “beside” me because she WANTS to.  Not because she is hanging on the end of her leash with her front feet barely touching the ground.  Nice walking is attractive in any venue ¾ obedience, conformation or just taking the dog for a walk in the neighborhood.  Your dog should be having fun no matter where it is.  And be happy because she is with the person she adores ¾ YOU ¾ the person she wants to be with. 

Get your clickers and treats and let’s get walking.  This won’t take long.  Remember, several short training periods are just as helpful as one long one.  I strongly recommend that you start this training in a secure area ¾ either a fenced yard or in the house.  I prefer to begin off lead.  You can start this with very young puppies. 

First have an imaginary circle of space.  This is where you want your puppy to be when you are walking.  Start out realistically ¾ possibly a six-foot circle on your left.

Start walking.  When puppy takes that FIRST STEP within your imaginary space, CLICK!  Stop walking!  AND TREAT!  Keep this up until your puppy is walking along in this space reliably.  100% of the time in this area.  It will take a few repetitions of the Click, stopping to treat and you will soon notice puppy is right there.  BE SURE THIS IS RELIABLE BEFORE RAISING THE CRITERIA. 

Begin clicking when puppy is closer.  Remember to raise the criteria in small increments and to be sure that each step is reliable before expecting more.  Do not expect puppy to know that you want him to go from 6 feet from you to within 6 inches in one step. 

AND REMEMBER - NEVER CLICK WITHOUT OFFERING YOUR PUPPY A REWARD.  If your puppy is not food oriented, you can use a rub behind the ears, a throw of the ball.  Anything that is a reward.  I just find that food works with mine. 

You can add a collar and leash.  Remember, you are now changing criteria so will possibly have to back up a few steps.  Your puppy will catch on very quickly to the fact that this is the same exercise as walking without the leash.

Your puppy will be prancing right along beside you before you know it.   You have not had to pull on puppy’s throat - just think how much better this is for the trachea.  AND puppy will be much happier!

You can now add a cue to this behaviour.  As soon as puppy is in the final required position and walking there reliably, you can add your own verbal cue.  It could be walk, heel, here or whatever you find will be easy to remember. 

TRICK FOR THIS EDITION ¾ Wiping the face with a paw

You can accomplish this using several different ideas.  Some dogs will automatically rub their face when the face is touched with your hand.  Or you can place a small piece of tape on the forehead.  No matter what you use, as soon as that paw goes to the face ¾ click and treat.  It will take several repetitions but soon puppy will be “wiping his face” reliably.  Only then should you add a cue.  You can call it whatever you wish ¾ but remember not to try to add the cue too soon.   

Until next time, keep those puppy tails wagging and those clickers clicking. 

 ¾  Roberta Malott

Pondside Toys

Blenheim, On Canada

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