Deb Jones Obedience Clicker
Fort Wayne, IN November 1-3, 2002
(© Deb Jones 2002. Notes taken by Linda
J. Wagner. Any mistakes are mine.)
Friday, November 1: “Crash
Course in Clicker Training”
1. Click when the dog is doing what you want.
2. When you click, you must reinforce (toy, food, whatever).
3. Don’t click in the dog’s ear. Ex.: when heeling,
put the clicker in your right hand.
4. The clicker is not a remote control – you don’t
have to point at the dog with it.
The food/reinforcement does not have to be immediate. The click
marks the behavior, but reinforcement must come.
You can use a word instead of a click, but dogs often ignore much
of what we say since we talk so much. Deb sometimes uses a verbal
At first, click and treat for not much in particular, just so
that the dog starts to associate the click with something good
The click (or verbal word) serves as a release.
The click bridges the time between the behavior and reinforcement.
Three functions of the clicker: mark, release, bridge.
The speed at which you can catch individual behaviors is greater
with the clicker than with other methods.
Target behavior: what we’re looking for.
At first, practice clicker training something that is not life-and-death,
so that it’s not as important to you if you don’t
succeed or if you mess it up.
Three ways to get something to happen:
101 Things to Do with a Box (Shaping)
Deb keeps food behind her back so the dog doesn’t focus
on the food. At first, click if the dog even turns his head toward
the box. Then start expecting more, bit by bit. You need to be
patient, wait for the dog to offer behaviors. After the behavior
seems solid, try delaying the click and asking for more. Some
dogs will give up if they are not treated, some will start offering
more. If the dog gives up, go back to rewarding for something
he already does to encourage him to keep trying.
Deb used Judy’s Sheltie Morgan with the box. At first, she
had no particular behavior in mind, just that Morgan would start
doing something with the box. As he started to offer behaviors,
she decided that she wanted him to try to put his paws on the
box, or jump over the box, or run around the box. What is expected
depends on what the dog is offering, then on what you decide you
Why do “101 Things”?
Focus on target behavior with the dog.
It’s not life-and-death; you can’t “ruin”
the dog with the box.
For the dog, it’s an opportunity to be creative, to offer
positive behavior. The dog learns to try things to get reinforcement.
Luring – moving
the dog around as it follows the treat
Luring is an easy way to get the dog started. It’s very
seductive, however; it’s an illusion. The dog is following
the food; he doesn’t know what it is that he is doing that
gets the treat.
Fade out the lure quickly.
People who lure often click in the dog’s ear, however.
Sometimes, you may need to lure part of the behavior to get the
dog started (such as the start of a sit or start of a spin). Deb
lures a quick sphinx down.
To fade out the lure:
Put the treat in your pocket. The dog is still likely to follow
your hand, since it had the treat. When the dog does the desired
behavior, click, let him see that there’s no food in your
hand, but get it out of your pocket fast. Get the dog to see that
food is after the click at the end of the behavior.
It’s easy to get trapped into luring inappropriately. The
dog may stop and wait for you to get out the food. The dog is
not as active in the thinking process with luring as with shaping.
Targeting – using
something as a target.
Do not put food on the target (or else it’s
Shape the dog to go to the target.
First thing that you shape is often what the dog falls back on,
such as “Down” or “Sit.”
Targets: jar lid, margarine tub lid, palm of hand, rubber jar
opener, Alley Oop.
Alley Oop: type of target, available through J and J, Dogwise,
Putting a word to the behavior (such as “Touch”):
Deb often waits quite a while before she puts the word to it.
Sometimes if we rush to put the word to it, the dog is not quite
doing what we want, but it associates the imperfect behavior with
Click and toy is a bit slower than click and
treat. The tough part is getting the toy away. Food is easier,
faster, you can get more repetitions.
Use all the reinforcers you can think of: food,
toy, tug. Start a young puppy with play. Choose something the
Some dogs get too focused on food. Do not lure
with such a dog. Feed it before training (as opposed to training
a hungry dog, which is usually recommended). Give it treats that
are less exciting, “low value.” If the dog is likely
to bite you with food, use a target stick – it gives you
distance between the dog and the treat. It is very useful for
heeling, moving around such as for finishing, or even Go-Outs.
Shaping – luring – targeting: with
some combination of these, you can get the dog to do many things.
You may have to play with combinations.
Click – always reinforce (it predicts
something good is coming). It doesn’t have to be food.
There are times that when and where the food
comes from really matters.
Ex.: training the Go-Out or Drop on Recall.
Deb always goes to the dog to deliver the treat, or she might
throw the treat to the dog. She does not want the dog to come
in to her to get the treat, or else the dog will think that that
(coming in) is the desired behavior. Or she could delay the click
and go to the dog.
In theory, the click should mark the behavior.
In practice, the dog tends to gravitate to the food source.
Click once. Do not click-click-click. Dog: “What’s
earning the click?”
“Every time you click the behavior, it’s
money in the bank. You’re making progress.” -- Karen
Many people say, “I don’t have the
patience to shape,” so such people tend to lure. But the
dog has not learned what he’s done. The next time you start
a session, the dog may need to start all over again. With shaping,
the dog remembers more, thinks more.
Sometimes you may need to go backward in the
training to get some behavior.
Continuous reinforcement vs. Variable
ratio reinforcement vs. Variable interval reinforcement
Continuous reinforcement (in the early learning
Every single time the dog does something, reinforce. This is like
putting money in a pop machine, you always get pop.
Variable ratio reinforcement:
Vary the number of times the dog does the behavior before they
get clicked and treated.
This is more like gambling; you don’t win every time, maybe
next time you win.
Say something to give the dog encouragement and keep him going.
The dog may get a bit frustrated, but may start offering more,
working harder. That’s the goal.
If the dog gets too frustrated and stops working, back up.
Make sure that the dog knows the behavior before you ask for this.
Work hard, get less.
Especially in competition, the dog must do many behaviors before
getting the reward.
Variable interval reinforcement:
How long a time a dog must do a behavior is sometimes important,
so vary the length of time before it gets the reward.
Putting a name to the behavior
-- what you have at the time you name it is what the dog will
think it should be. Many times, we need to rename something if
the behavior is less than optimal when we named it. For example,
if the dog lags when say “Heel,” the dog thinks that
the lag position is heel.
If you want to do agility, shape moving
behaviors first (before stationary behaviors).
To increase the speed of a behavior:
Ex.: faster “down” on the table. Limited hold –
the clock is ticking, you have a limited amount of time. Reinforce
when behavior is fast enough, faster than average. You may even
need to time it to see if you really are getting faster.
Speed is one of several criteria: How long,
how fast, how far away I am.
If I give the cue, how long does it take the dog to respond?
Latency: the time between the command and the
When putting the name to a behavior, gradually
and quietly add in the cue (you don’t want to distract the
dog, or make him stop to figure out what you’re asking).
When the dog does something wrong: We don’t
want obnoxious, rude dogs. There are certain things that are simply
Non-reward marker (NRM): for
when dog is doing something we don’t want. Deb says “Oops.”
That doesn’t come out harsh. Even something like “Oops”
may be too harsh, especially for some dogs or some behaviors (like
in the weaves).
If you use NRM more than you click, you’re doing something
wrong. Or if your NRM starts sounding harsh. Deb might give quiet
“Oops,” then turn around, pull away a bit (disengaging).
We may need to back off sometimes, provide encouragement in what
they’re doing correctly rather than just telling them what
they’re doing wrong.
Generalization: do the behavior
everywhere, every time, on cue (not just at home or in the training
When we have a behavior on cue under variable reinforcement, we
need to get the dog to generalize the behavior.
State-dependent learning – subjects perform
better in the same state in which they did the learning.
“But my dog does it perfectly at home!” Yes, he does
it well where he learned the behavior.
Go to a new environment and ask the dog to do the behavior.
You may need to go back and make it easier for the dog.
Just because a dog does a behavior does not mean that it knows
If a dog doesn’t do something in a new environment, such
as in competition, that means that there is something new about
the environment that seems significantly distracting. He needs
to realize that the distractions are not important.
Extinguishing a behavior (it
never, ever again gets reinforced).
If we want to get rid of a behavior, there may be many things
Some things are self-reinforcing (for ex., barking).
“Dog gets into the garbage.” Duh. Put garbage someplace
else where the dog can’t get into it.
“Dog barks at the window.” Put up baby gates and keep
the dog away from the window.
“Dog whines before start of an exercise.” Make dog
aware that he’s whining. Don’t start if the dog whines,
reinforce the quiet times. Deb feels that the dog may not even
know that it’s whining. Barking is self-evident (whining
Attention is the strongest reinforcer in the
world (even negative attention).
People sometimes unintentionally reinforce a behavior by attending
Getting yelled at may be better than nothing.
Better: pay attention to the dog when he is doing something good
(like being quiet).
What we think we’re punishing might be doing just the opposite.
This can backfire, especially with dogs that are aggressive.
Differential reinforcement of an alternate
or incompatible behavior: reinforce something else that
a dog is doing that prevents (or is incompatible with) the undesirable
Ex.: Dog jumps on people. Reinforce the dog for having all four
feet on the floor. If all four feet are on the floor, the dog
cannot be jumping up.
What does the dog want out of this? Reinforce that.
Ex.: Rottweiler jumped on people, because the dog wanted attention.
Deb would start to walk in, the dog jumped up, she took a step
back. If the dog stayed down, she took a step forward. Ah, hah!
The dog realized that he could get Deb to come in if he was not
Crisis management. We can stop the behavior
momentarily, but we haven’t really solved the problem.
Punishment – doing something unpleasant
– is tricky. If you do something wrong in administering
the punishment, you may develop a life-long problem, and the dog
will associate you with the negative experience. If you screw
up positive reinforcement, the worst that may happen is that the
dog learns something you didn’t intend for him to learn.
If your timing is off, etc., that does not produce bad things
like with punishment.
Saturday, November 2
There are no right or wrong ways to play with
your dog, but some ways work better than others.
Make up a “Trail Mix,” a variety of good things, of
mixed value: Cheerios, liver, peanut butter bits. Dog doesn’t
know what will come next.
Special treats are reserved for certain things, such as more stressful
situations, learning new things.
Meat-flavored baby food in a small jar: click and lick.
Salmon – stinks, dog can smell it from afar; Deb keeps it
wrapped in double foil. This is good for recall in an open field.
You can get it freeze-dried in the grocery store, or left-overs
from dinner, or some companies now make salmon treats.
Occasionally, let the dog win (contrary to popular belief). It’s
no fun if you never win.
Don’t jerk the dog around by the mouth.
Move the toy around to keep the dog interested. Keep it moving
away from the dog rather than toward the dog.
Body language is a big part of this.
If dog doesn’t show any interest in playing with you, you
may have to work at learning to play. Get the dog to show more
interest in you – you have to be more exciting than other
stuff around you.
On/Off Switch: At end, “Done” or “Off”
to quiet down.
Some people are constantly picking at their
dog. Remember that he needs some personal time for himself.
To start, turn the dog “on,” get him excited. Women’s
voices tend to be more excited, higher-pitched. Emotional arousal
we get from the dog should carry over to training.
When the dog is distracted, he’s saying that he’s
more interested in the distraction than in you. We can control
most of these distractions. The dog can’t have the thing
that is distracting it on his own. We have to get a behavior that
we want, then click, then give the dog its distraction.
Ex.: Deb has a Lab who loves to chase squirrels. She made him
sit until he finally glanced at her, then she clicked and let
the dog chase squirrels. He learned that he could only get squirrels
Pre-mac (spelling?) Principle:
The dog must do what we want before he gets what he wants.
Stinky Squirrel: Deb took a toy squirrel
with a zipper pouch, put salmon in a double bag. Dogs who like
to sniff will work just to get a chance to sniff Stinky Squirrel.
This gets the dog’s head up off the ground and up towards
Most of us should be able to get a CD, CDX,
even UD with the dog that we have (an OTCH is something else again).
Change of tempo: The dogs tend to get more distracted on the “Slow.”
Take 3 steps with your dog in place, then click and treat.
Heel with the dog on your left, treat and clicker in your right
hand. You don’t want to lure the dog or click in his ear.
Sit/Stand/Down in Front/on Left
These are hard for dogs just starting out, especially on the left.
Hardest one? Stand. We don’t use it as much, even though
it is a necessary part of competition obedience.
How to get the dog’s attention back to
If you turn to face the dog, that tends to slow the dog down.
If you turn away and move, that tends to draw the dog to you.
In obedience, on the recall, we face the dog and call him to us;
our body is telling the dog to slow down!
Play, play, play, “Sit” (or “Down”).
You can get the dog excited and he should still settle down quickly.
Examine the dog (Stand for Exam). This can be
broken down into pieces:
“Let me touch you.”
“Stand still and let me touch you.”
Go all over the dog. If you can’t do it, imagine what it
will be like for the judge.
So why is the Stand for Exam so hard? The dog must Stand with
It’s hard for some dogs to understand that this is not someone
petting them, that it’s an obedience exercise where he must
It’s tough for some dogs to have a judge “creep up”
on them, or for the judge to bend over them (especially small
Some dogs will orient themselves to where the
clicker is. Deb switches hands, puts it behind her back, in her
pocket, not always the same place.
– when the dog looks at you, click.
Beginning the Finish (Swing Finish)
Start with the dog sitting in front of you; when the dog looks
at you, step forward and a bit to the right. The dog will be likely
to swing to your left, and should still stay focused on you. Click
Starting to Heel
With small dogs in particular, Deb leads off with her RIGHT foot.
If she leads off with her left, the dog may tend to lag.
“Are you ready?” “Ready!” Take one step.
If the dog moves with you, click. To begin with, just work on
this with one step.
Try to hold off using a verbal cue until the dog is doing it better.
Remember that if you use the cue too early, the dog may associate
the cue with the imperfect behavior, such as lagging or being
out of position.
Lagging -- “Catch-up” game
Sit your dog (actually, the dog doesn’t need to sit as long
as he will wait behind you). Walk forward a few steps, facing
forward. Call the dog, “Copper, let’s go!”,
keep moving forward, and click when the dog is in Heel position.
You need some sort of cue to cue the dog to try to catch up. This
teaches the dog to know how to catch up, even if he’s far
behind, should that happen. The dog does not need to panic. In
competition should not be the first place that he encounters this
situation, where he might not know what to do.
Suppose the dog wraps his head around your body
a bit too much, so that his butt swings out. You may be able to
figure out where his head should be to have good position, then
What if the dog is “sharky,” grabs
at the treat? We must let him know that he doesn’t get the
treat if he does that. Don’t let him have the treat, in
spite of what went on before. You might give the treat to the
dog as you would to a horse, in the flat of your palm.
Clicker retrieves (see the handout).
Deb likes to train sitting down when she can.
It’s easy, relaxed, we tend to be more patient.
If the dog gets distracted, maybe you’ve worked too long.
Deb likes to train this for maybe 3 minutes at a time. Don’t
dig yourself into a hole by trying for “just one more.”
When you click, the dog is done, even if he drops the dumbbell
after the click.
Foundation Games for the Clicker Retrieves
Treats: use small round treats that roll (Kix cereal or Peanut
Butter Bits (such as Buddy Bits) for small dogs, cheese balls
for larger dogs).
Toss the treat, click as the dog approaches the treat. This also
gives the dog permission to get food off the floor. The dog will
get motivation to run out and come back to you. Repeat, tossing
another treat in the opposite direction.
Even if the dog knows how to retrieve, feel
free to retrain. It will only make the retrieve stronger.
If you clicked but decided immediately after that it wasn’t
what you want, too bad! You clicked, you must treat.
Get the dog to focus on the bar, not the bells of the dumbbell.
If the dog starts grabbing or chewing on the bells, you might
ignore it at first, but if it continues, take it away temporarily
to prevent the dog from chewing on it.
Ibizan hound retrieves but slowly. Run out to the dumbbell with
him, get him more motivated, maybe take the dumbbell yourself
if you beat him to it. Or toss it and let him chase it as it’s
moving; he’s more motivated by moving things.
Most people think that they need to teach the dog to hold the
dumbbell/article while he sits still. Deb teaches this last.
Cocker runs out for dumbbell, picks it up, turns around and drops
it. Deb thinks we can inadvertently teach such behaviors by clicking
too late, as the dog begins to drop the dumbbell. You need to
click early, before the dog even starts the drop.
The first thing you attempt to clicker train
should NOT be the retrieve with a dumbbell. There are too many
things that you can screw up. Deb also has fetch sticks to use
for training. If you mess up the retrieve with a fetch stick,
you can still retrain with the dumbbell.
Problems on the Retrieve
Anticipation – the dog doesn’t wait before the command
to “Get it.”
Don’t correct the anticipation. Reinforce the behavior immediately
before the anticipation (the “Sit”).
Put the treat in one hand, the dumbbell in the other, treat the
sit as you toss the dumbbell (hard to click; you need a 3rd hand).
Dogs sometimes kick the dumbbell, it goes rolling off.
Toss the dumbbell while you’re standing close to a wall.
The dog must slow down to prevent running into the wall. Then
gradually increase your distance from the wall.
Finish. Work on this separate from
Two things: Finishes must be straight and they must happen.
In the B classes, good finishes usually determine the winner.
Left Finish (swing Finish)
Start with the dog in front of you. With a treat in your left
hand, lure the dog around (3 to 4 times). Then “fake-out,”
pretend you have food.
With a big dog, you may need to step backward with your left foot,
then step forward; this helps the dog make the turn.
When this is good, ask the dog to sit before you click.
You may want to teach your dog to spin counter-clockwise.
Especially for the small dog, this is part of the turn into position.
Deb uses “Spin” to turn counter-clockwise, “Zoom”
The “Around Finish”
Start with the dog a bit behind you, lure him up alongside your
left side. Then try it with the dog behind you, make a quarter
turn. The dog will need to wrap around you a bit to get into position.
When a dog is sitting on one hip, he is close to lying down. This
is not good. Lying down on the sit is a common problem.
We make big mistakes in training.
We often ask too much before the dog is ready.
We catch the dog after he’s made a mistake rather than praise
him when he’s doing it correctly.
Criteria for the Stay: Duration –
distance – distraction
Duration – get the dog in position; play with the dog.
We usually reward the dog after the release, rather than during
the stay. Reward the stay (since that’s what we want). Sit-stay.
Deb stands close, feeds the treat, but no click. (Good things
happen during the stay, not the release.) After the dog is released,
praise him/touch him, but no treat. The release is not the special
part of this exercise to the dog, the stay is the special part.
Deb gives two commands: Down, then Roll over on hip (not as easy
to pop up from the Down).
Open Group Stays
A person acting as judge treats the dog while the handler is out
of sight. The good part for the dog comes when the handler is
The peanut butter bits she uses are called Buddy
Bits. They come in several flavors; she likes PB best. She gets
them from catalogues.
Sunday, November 3
Jumping Jacks: Sit – Stand – Sit – Stand
Spins and Twirls (Zooms)
Ball in hula hoop
Put a large ball (too big for the dog to pick up in its mouth)
inside a hula hoop. Shape the dog to push the ball out of the
hoop. Click when the dog turns its head in the direction of the
ball, then towards the ball, then at the ball, etc. When Deb treats,
she may toss the food away from the ball. When the dog comes back
to you, it is likely to look toward the ball, giving you another
opportunity to click and treat. You may want to keep the dog on
a short leash to begin with so that the dog doesn’t have
the chance to get too distracted.
Rubber jar opener is nice. It won’t skid across mats, it
stays put. Turn it over, it might be another color. It can be
cut into smaller pieces for fading it out.
Lots of other possibilities: margarine tub lid, plastic container
lid (although some dogs did not seem to like the ridges), etc.
Have the dog touch the target while it’s in your hand, on
the floor nearby, further away.
If you take a break, pick up the target so that the dog won’t
touch it when you’re not paying attention to reinforce it.
Some people target the Drop on Recall.
Don’t give much distance at first, get more distance as
dog understands what is expected.
Start close. Send the dog to Touch. As dog approaches, “Copper,
Getting the dog to discriminate between “Touch
it and lie down” vs. “Touch it and sit”: Touch
tells the dog to go to the target and wait for the next command,
which you tell the dog.
The target is not a toy. We do not want the dog to grab it and
play with it.
Fading the target
The dog learns to look for target. Use the target as long as it’s
You can cut the target into smaller and smaller pieces, or hide
part of it under the mat.
Touch is the concept: go to something that I am indicating.
This could be a target, hand, etc.).
Nose Touch vs. Paw Touch
The Nose Touch is trained separately and before the Paw Touch.
Teach Nose Touch exclusively. Then teach the Paw Touch (“Paw”),
and then the Paw Touch is done exclusively, don’t reinforce
the Nose Touch. She uses the Alley Oop. The dog may get frustrated
and paw it (Click!). Dogs seem to like to paw the Alley Oop.
Training the Utility Go-Out
Use two ring gates and three uprights. Place
a high jump and a bar jump close to the gates (maybe 2-3’
away) and maybe 10’ apart.
Start close to the center upright. Send the
dog to go out and Touch. As the dog approaches the gate, click,
feed the treat from the other side of the gate. The dog must go
to the gate to get his treat. Increase the distance
gradually. Click. You must go out to the dog
to give the treat. The treat always comes at
the gate, not from coming back to you. Stay close to the gate
until the dog understands that. This works better than putting
food out there (on the gate or on a target) – that’s
luring, rather than targeting. She points to the gate with her
left hand. That becomes part of the signal for the Go-Out.
Go to a blank wall as well, or mailboxes, etc. Work for a generalized
By training with the jumps in place, we teach the dog that it’s
OK to go between jumps, rather than jumping everything he sees.
Back up, add lateral distance as well.
Deb did “Go-Out” for a year before adding the Turn
Dog begins to put all the parts together for itself without waiting
for the cue. The handler needs to be in control of the cues.
Deb gives continuous reinforcement until the dog is rock solid
from a distance across the ring, then she puts it to a variable
To a clicker-trained dog, repeating something
is good (as opposed to thinking he must repeat something because
he did something incorrectly). But you may need to add a little
more challenge each time.
For home use, Deb bought two sections of ring gate and 3 uprights.
She really recommends that everyone who is serious about competing
do this. She really believes that this is better than putting
food on the floor or on the gate. Otherwise, the dog may continue
to look up and down the gates, looking for food (I know it’s
here someplace!). The treat does not come FROM
the gate, but it comes AT the gate FROM
Turn and Sit
She uses hula hoops. They work well for little dogs, but even
larger dogs can learn to make tight turns inside the hoop. At
first, the dog may be concerned about the hoop. Shape the dog
to get into the hoop. The hoop will “prevent” the
dog from coming back to you. She gives command to turn, then command
to sit: “Copper, Sit.” Give the two commands as one.
A pause between them will be perceived and penalized as two separate
Drop on Recall
Do not use the dog’s name, just the Down
command. A common problem is that the dog will usually come in
too close. If you want a visual cue for yourself where to do the
drop, put it off to the side, NOT in the dog’s path. If
you don’t want to use a hula hoop or target, use a jump
bar. Help the dog to understand that he is not supposed to come
in to you.
Go directly to the Down, rather than doing Sit-Down. It’s
faster, and the dog is less likely to come in to you or to slow
down before he’s down. The “sphinx down” can
be lured: have a treat close to the dog’s chest, with the
dog in front of you, sideways to you.
Never reward the dog for coming in to you. Throw the treat slightly
behind the dog. If you don’t want the dog to pick up food
from the floor, you’ll have to go to the dog.
If your dog continues to creep in, use body language, step in,
even a hand signal. When the dog drops, step back (so that there’s
distance between you and the dog), then click and treat.
Not until they do it every time do you add the Recall.
Deb does not practice the Drop and Recall together every time,
since the dog will start to anticipate.
Use a pause table. Have the dog drop on the table (if they come
in too far, they fall off the table).
Distance hand signals: Stand-Stay-Down-Sit-Come
Where do we usually reinforce the dog? At the end of the chain.
This encourages the dog to hurry through some parts to get to
the end. Instead, reinforce separate parts, maybe randomly? This
seems to be one of the most stressful parts of obedience competition.
Many dogs don’t Down – that’s usually lack of
Include the trial atmosphere ingredients in your training, including
your nervous breathing.
Work up to making the training as stressful as the competition
environment. Build up the dog’s confidence.
Don’t go too far too soon. Dogs often interpret you being
quiet as something is wrong. You need to practice/train as you
compete, and compete as you train.
Make the training challenging enough so the dog has to think.
In training, occasionally add in elements that could be possible
in a trial: toy, foil wrapper, etc. These things might show up
in a ring. If the dog has never experienced such a thing, he will
not know what to do, but may be distracted or freak out.
Deb does most of her training without a leash, but was surprised
when the on-leash heeling scores were poorer than off-leash. That
shouldn’t have been surprising.
You must get the right size. There are several styles: 1 bar,
2 bars, 3 bars.
Treat – must be something that smells strong. Don’t
use it for anything else. She uses frozen Bil-Jac. Rub a bit of
the treat to get the scent on the bar (not the ends of the article).
Don’t overscent, or other articles may mistakenly pick up
the scent. She scents the article once per training session.
When the dog shows interest (sniffs), click. Start with the article
in your hand, then on the floor.
Go to two articles, one scented, one unscented. Put the scented
one closer to you on the floor (to make it easier for the dog).
Click interest in the correct article. If he indicates interest
in the unscented one, that’s OK, just no click. Oops, try
If he picks up the unscented one and brings it to you, take it
away (no click), retire it, and put out another unscented one.
Deb starts with metal articles. Leather holds scents better and
has a scent of its own.
She lets the articles air out 24 hours before using them again.
She used to boil them to get rid of the scent, but that damages
articles and doesn’t really appear to be necessary.
She even handles all articles very lightly just in case she accidentally
touches one. The dog should look for the heavily scented one.
Fade out the Bil-Jac when the dog is solid.
Each session gets slightly harder: add another article (metal
or leather). One time, scent the metal, next time, scent the leather.
Start easier each time, but work up in each session.
Eliminate stress: do it a lot, do it in the presence of others
(especially a man). Bunch the articles close, spread them out
(different stewards arrange them differently). Practice, practice,
When you add in the retrieve, start out easier again (maybe only
3 articles). If the dog gets stuck, back up and do something easier
so that the dog can succeed.
Take the articles different places.
Deb does not overscent an article. She holds the bars rather than
rub-rub-rub. She thinks that Less is More. If an overscented one
is close to an unscented one, the dog may take the nearer one
because it seems to be scented.
Command: “Find it” or “Go find it.” She
adds this fairly quickly in the training.
Group Competition Game
Throw a treat out. “Copper, front.” Lure the dog in
between your feet. Click and treat. This is good to train while
Lure the dog up toward your chest with both hands so that the
dog doesn’t cue off one side. Next step: put your feet together.
Small dogs: get the dog to focus on your knees.
If you are bending over to look at the dog, that’s not what
you’ll do in the trial. Then in the trial, you stand up
straight, and the dog stops out in front of you a bit to look
at your face. With big dogs, it is not as much of an issue. Spitting
food comes in handy here, if you can do it.
Teach the dog to do a tuck sit rather than rocking his body back
into a sit. The rocking sit puts the dog further away from you.
Faster recall – hints for speeding
Call the dog, turn and run.
Call the dog, pitch treat behind you or between your legs.
In the Group Competition Game, many of the dogs needed a second
command on the Signal Come.
Give the hand signal, pause, “Come.”
Start lessening the time of the pause until the hand and verbal
The dog will start to associate the hand signal with the “Come”
– click and treat if the dog moves without the verbal, even
if it’s sloppy.
Work on moving around to get the dog in position. Turn, get the
dog in “Close.” Move sideways, “Close.”
Turn both counter-clockwise (cclw) and clockwise (clw), especially
if you choose to direct to Glove #3 by turning cclw rather than
turning all the way around clw.
“Look” – click and treat. Start close, get distance.
Then get the dog to go to the glove.
With a small dog, you are allowed to bend down to his eye level
for the send.
Use paper plates or coffee filters. Put a treat on one of them.
The idea is that the dog can’t see the treat. Send the dog
to the filter with the treat. This is a way of marking the correct
She never practices with Glove #2, she never even trains with
it out. She only trains #1 and #3, since #2 is easy. But she puts
#1 and #3 a bit closer than they would be in a trial.
She puts a little tennis ball inside the glove and plays with
it so that the dog will like to retrieve it. If your dog is a
good retriever and is more prone to play, then you might not want
to do this.
Different sizes of gloves – J and J carries them, she even
gets doll gloves at Michael’s for small dogs. Warning: really
small gloves are hard to see.
Stand for Exam and Moving Stand
Sometimes the hardest thing for a dog is having the handler walk
around behind the dog.
In the Moving Stand, the dog must Stay while the handler walks
5 more steps away.
The Stand should be immediate with no additional movement from
The dog must return to Heel position without doing a Front. This
is so tempting for the dog that he may over-generalize and not
do Fronts on Recalls, so Deb doesn’t practice this much.
Toss a treat, “Wait.” Dog stands still, then click
and treat. Lack of movement gets reinforced.
Toss treats in several different directions. Then start adding
movement on your part.
Use your hand as a target if the dog doesn’t understand
Do this when you have the maximum possibility of success: when
the dog is tired, at the end of the day, Eventually, the dog will
need to do it at any time. But at first, make it easy for the
dog to succeed. Push the dog, asking for more each time.
Have a person walk behind the dog, sometimes touch the dog, sometimes
Work in slower steps, don’t ask for the whole thing all
Standing still gets treats, wiggling gets the dog nothing.
Sometimes ask the dog to stand at random: “Freeze.”
This exercise really doesn’t make sense to a dog. His point
of view: “Why jump it when it’s so easy to walk over
Use a target, such as the Alley Oop. Put the target out several
paces beyond the last board.
Important: do not put food on the target (that’s a lure).
Click the target and treat at the target. You don’t want
the dog to come back to you.
Get the dog to take an extra stride past the last board, rather
than coming in right away to you and possibly cutting the corner.
You could take a step forward, then back, to encourage the dog
to keep moving (which, of course, you can’t do in the ring).
Set the dog up a bit crooked, pointing away from you.
Some people put a traffic cone at the corner, so the dog needs
to go around it.
Agility dogs tend to cue off shoulder movement, so this is usually
easier for them.
Start with one board, then two, adding distance for the dog to
Set it up so that it’s initially easy for the dog to succeed.
Don’t put the target too close to the last board, or the
dog will have to slam on his brakes (not good for the dog).
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