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Fun & Handy Tricks

Teaching an Old Cat New Tricks

My wife and I have a eight-year-old cat named Phoebus, whom she rescued as a kitten. When she found him, he was one week away from being put to sleep by the local shelter; his mother had leukemia, and of his entire litter, only he had survived. He's a great cat, with a firm but sweet disposition, and, until recently, he had never been clicker trained. He did all the normal things you want a cat to do—use a litter box, hunt mice, play, purr—but he also did some of the normal things you don't want a cat to do.

Teaching the Pawing Behavior

Q: I train animals for films & TV commercials in Australia. I am currently working on a job and the clients have just added a behavior to their "wish-list," at very late notice (I have 5 days to train it). ... The clients have asked that she "dig" on a flat wooden surface. I have been trying to get her to dig for a treat in dirt, but that is really not working so far (she is hungry, not starving). What else can I try?

Play the Cup Game

Here's a simple exercise I gave to the DogRead online list, to introduce people and their dogs to the clicker philosophy.

Sit on the couch. Put a paper or plastic cup on the floor. Now, using clicker and treats but not throwing the treats near the cup, can you get your dog to knock the cup over and knock it around the room? Try it!

Cowboy Up

Cowboy Up. Hmmm. …Catchy slogan. Could I provide some choreography-based interpretation to that phrase? How about bucking up in the air like a bronco? What could be more cowboy than that? Off we went to learn. Of course, Tucker being a clicker dog we would do this the clicker way (see below for teaching instructions).