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Training the Clicked Retrieve...with a Wild Pig!

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From Karen Hatch:

After receiving Don't Shoot the Dog, I was itching to try clicker training—but failed in getting my cocker Anna to accept a clicker, even muffled. Seeing how I don't have another dog, you gave me an idea. I have *clicker voice trained* a Florida rooter to retrieve. (A Florida Rooter is a wild hog living off the land like all wild animals free ranging).

What would have taken you less than a day took me 10 days to shape and cature—the entire retrieve exercise to a target—but it was sooooooo easy and FUN. Clicker training has me sold now and a firm believer! How easy can it get! Thank you for passing on your knowledge.

Here is Karen Hatch's step-by-step account of how she did it (and p.s. I think it's pretty impressive that she did it in ten days, and her first clicker experience, too! KP).

A month ago my neighbor, who is being over-ran with wild hogs, has been trapping and moving them off his property. I asked Steve to bring me a little young one. This gilt we named Myrtle was perhaps 2 months old at the most. Wormed and de-liced her. Put her in a pen, talked to her and fed her. A couple of weeks of gaining her trust some what and being able to touch her a little I started the *clicker program* of 100% capturing the behavior I wanted. Never having done this I had no *plan* in my head.

Day one & two: With a *mouth sound click* and treats (dog food kibble) for two days—two meals a day, each kibble for her meal was hand fed and *clicked*. She was hungry enough that when I let her out of her pen—she stayed with me, wanting me to feed her. This enabled me to start the *clicker training* outside of her pen.

Day three: Using a small flyball tennis ball, I waited, till by accident Myrtle touched the ball that was sitting next to her 'target/food bowl. Nose touch ball - click and treat. Myrtle caught on immediately. Surprised the pants right off of me!

Day four A.M.: Myrtle is having a grand time making me work. She is actually having fun walking to the ball now a foot away - touching it - click - then running back to the target bowl for kibble. This target bowl is a MUST. She has very sharp teeth and has bitten my fingers no matter how flat I hold my hand.

Day four P.M.: Myrlte is running to the ball 2 to 3 feet away touching it and running back to the target to get kibble. At this point I can move the ball around in different locations. She will hunt for the ball to touch it with her nose.

Day five A.M.: I was able to capture her opening her mouth and bite the ball. Click and jackpot. Now no more *just* touching just the ball - she needs to bite the ball.

Day five P.M.: She gets really excited - I was able to capture Myrtle putting the ball in her mouth. Now only putting the ball in her mouth gets a click and treat. She is having a "ball". She does all this very, very fast and her tail just a waggin'. I am now able to touch her more and even brush her.

Day six: Staying with her putting the ball in her mouth but getting the ball further and further out and in different locations and even rolling the ball away from her. If she doesn't see where the ball goes & if it rolls past a couple of feet, she has trouble *finding* the ball. I have not put a cue word on the activity yet.

Day seven: The same routine. Myrtle will take long walks with me now. Staying close as if I'm her mommy. No lead - No collar. All training is done outside of her pen.

Day eight: Now I'm wondering how I will ever get Myrtle to actually retrieve the ball. Started teasing her with the ball getting her rebed up then I rolled the ball a very short distance and Myrtle ran to the ball and did all kinds of things to the ball and no clicks. She went through every behavior from touching it to rolling the ball to biting the ball and then she would run to the target .... no kibble ... I picked the ball back up ... teased her with it ... rolled it .. she ran to it and got nasty with the ball by picking up the ball and throwing it. Click ... Kibble. Now I'm able to capture different variations of picking up the ball and not only throwing the ball but rolling the ball to me which really gets a click and jackpot.

Day nine: Was able to capture bring the ball to me from a very short distance away from me. I am looking forward to starting to put a cue word with the retrieve behavior I want.

Day Ten: Myrtle is now bring me a toy everytime when I throw it out! Right to the target bowl where I am standing. I am having a blast watching all this take shape so quickly. I am sold out on clicker training! Am using a large rope toy instead of a ball now. All this in May 2002.

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