The Clicker Challenge: a great new dog sport!
Boston clicker trainer MaryAnn Callahan and I just returned from the National UK Clicker Challenge, in England.
Kay Laurence, founder of Learning About Dogs, Ltd., and Teaching Dogs magazine, originated the idea and began holding local Clicker Challenges in England a couple of years ago.
I was honored to be one of the three judges of this first national competition. MaryAnn served as Kay's right hand, learning the ins and outs of putting on this kind of event.
What an experience! Imagine 13 teams of four handlers and up to eight dogs each. The day began with the teams reviewing a list of twelve challenges. Challenges such asâ€¦ teach one dog to jump over another; teach a dog to pick the queen of hearts out of deck of cards; teach a dog to jump through a rolling hula hoop; teach one dog to take toys out of a box another to put them all back--and more.
The teams had to choose ten of the challenges, train the behaviors in the morning, then present the results for the judges in the afternoon. Points were awarded for achieving the challenge, for ingenuity, creativity, and imagination, quality and strength of the behaviors, and for general WOW! factors. The sight of people clicker training dogs all over the arena in the morning-no leashes, no commands, just wagging tails and enthusiastic animals everywhere-was in itself a mind blower. Also stunning to spectators was the fact that there were so many different breeds, from beagle to borzoi, with a lot of mixed breeds and rescue dogs too.
Kay Laurence will be in Boston November 9 and 10 for two workshops and a mini-Clicker Challenge, organized and ably run by MaryAnn Callahan and sponsored by Karen Pryor's Clicker Training company. Sorry, these events are full, but we will be planning more and bigger clicker events, including a US Clicker Challenge, for 2003.
Clicking cats, even in shelters
I had a wonderful experience this past month, teaching a Clicker Shelter Clinic to the Westchester SPCA, outside of New York City. Representatives from several shelters were there, as well as a large and eager group of SPCA staff and volunteers, and trainers and students from the nearby veterinary college. As part of the clinic, we spent an hour in the cat building, where volunteers teamed up to click, target train, and treat (with canned tuna) rows of cats in their cages. Many cats learned to target, including a blind cat that caught onto the idea and would leap to touch the target (the tip of a ballpoint pen) at the sound of the pen tapping the wire. These cats learned, in just a few clicks, how to offer behavior and get something back, and how to make eye contact and interact pleasantly with numerous people they might never have seen before-all useful skills that increase adoptability.
Volunteers who had never used a clicker before were able to get great results with the cats. (And unbelievable results with the dogs, including successfully 'debarking' an entire kennel of about 20 dogs for the rest of the day, despite the fact that the four other kennels were still barking like crazy.)
To learn more about these quick clicker interventions for multiple animal facilities, visit our Shelter Resource Center and download some of our free instruction sheets, such as Make your Kennel a No-Bark Zone; and Clicking Cats in the Shelter Environment. Or, just get those two documents and ALL our other Shelter Resource documents printed out and sent to you by ordering our working guide, Click for Life. It's fifty pages of state-of-the-art clicker information by clicker experts from clickertraining.com and from Upper Valley Humane Society in New Hampshire. Click for Life, $12.95 plus shipping.
Holiday clicker presents from Karen Pryor Clickertraining
Speaking of Christmas presents, we've got a lot of them this year. They all come with free gift wrap. Here are some new ideas.
For kids, Jessie Haas's lovely novel, Shaper, maybe with a dog or cat or horse Getting Started kits. All these animals figure in her story about a lonely boy, a lost dog, and a clicker trainer on the next farm. Book and Kit together $33.90. Book alone $16.95. Free gift wrap.
Toys as Treats: a new collection of tug toys, hand-picked by me and tooth-tested by our company spokesdogs Misha, Twitchett, and Phoebe. $10.95 each or $29.95 for all three. Free gift wrap, don't forget.
Clicker Christmas tree ornaments stocking stuffers for your house
Or, how about this? Trainer Liz Heyward gives each of the vet clinics she works with a countertop Christmas tree, trimmed with ten of our translucent, decorated clickers.