[wp_ad_camp_2]This is Part One of the clicker trained retrieve. You can do this at home in your kitchen or sitting room. Or outdoors in your garden.
You will need a retrieving dummy. The standard 1lb canvas dummy like the one in this picture, is fine.
Charging the clicker
If you have not done any previous clicker training with this dog, you will need to ‘charge’ your clicker first. Check out this article ‘How to charge a clicker’ Now you are ready to begin.
Touching the dummy
At each training stage you will have an objective. Our objective for this first part is to get the dog to deliberately touch the dummy. It is a small step but an important one.
Here are the steps you will need to work through to get the dog to touch the dummy
- Looking at the dummy
- Approaching the dummy
- Touching the dummy
Now if your dog already picks up any dummy he happens to find even indoors, you will be able to move rapidly to the next stage ‘Picking up the dummy’.
However, bear in mind that many dogs who willingly pick up a ‘thrown’ dummy will not necessarily pick one up just because it happens to be there on your kitchen floor.
Many more dogs will show an interest in a dummy on some occasions and not on others. This is where we change that. At the end of this stage your dog will be repeatedly interacting with the dummy throughout your training session.
Define your sessions
Set out a certain number of treats, fifteen to twenty treats is fine for the first session, and stop the session when you have used them all. Put the dummy away discretely whilst the dog is collecting a treat. You can sit down or stand up, but if your dog is not at all interested in dummies I would sit down. You may be there for a little while.
What is C&T
This is just the abbreviation for Click and Treat. You click when you get the behaviour you are looking for and you treat the dog immediately after the click.
Each time you press the clicker you will throw the treat away from the dummy, so that the dog has to actively and deliberately return to the dummy in order to get another treat.
Here are the steps
- Place the dummy (don’t throw it) on the floor
- As soon as the dog ‘looks’ at the dummy C&T
- Repeat until the dog starts to approach, and take more interest in, the dummy
- Create an imaginary circle around the dummy. Make it three or four feet in diameter
- Now only C&T when the dog moves into the circle
- When the dog is moving into the circle repeatedly (at least three times in a row) shrink the circle
- Repeat until the dog touches the dummy
- Now you will only C&T when the dog touches the dummy
- Repeat until the dog touches the dummy five times in a row
- Now you are ready to move on to the next stage ‘Picking up the dummy’
We will look at that next time
What if the dog loses interest?
Dogs only stop playing this game for two reasons
- They are not hungry
- Your treats are mean
If your dog loses interest get some better treats. Think moist and juicy. Little bits of roast chicken, beef or ham are ideal. Ditch the boring dry old biscuits. And train when your dog is hungry. Don’t worry or fret about your dog’s instincts or lack of them. This is not about instinct. It is about creating a reliable trained response.
Keep sessions shortish (ten to fifteen minutes is quite long enough, shorter is ok). Four five minute sessions is better than one twenty minute session.
Check back soon for the next instalment!
If you enjoy my articles, you might like my new book: The Happy Puppy Handbook – a definitive guide to early puppy care and training.
Many thanks Pippa. I want to give it a try for this particular problem so will keep you posted.
Done nothing yet, will I start right at the start even though he is a keen retriever?
It sounds like your cocker’s desire to retrieve is not the problem, but his reluctance to deliver the dummy is. The clicker is not the only way to solve this, but it is a good way if you are prepared to work through the process without missing anything out.
If you decide to ‘clicker train’ the delivery, then you need to follow the instructions (there are other versions on the internet too) or you will come adrift. Have a read through all the parts of the clicker retrieve before you begin and see if you think it is your ‘cup of tea’.
If you don’t think you can do it, then get some help from a professional gundog trainer who will show you some other ways of getting your puppy to deliver nicely.
I have a 9mnth working cocker pup who is quite Giddy around me. He is for Working. His basic training is progressing ok, started five weeks ago. He runs circles round me when returning with retrieve. He will pick dummy off ground, keen to retrieve, will circle holding dummy. I always try to get my back against wall etc to avoid this but he is just as boisterous around either side. I saw this thread and went and bought clicker, which is now ‘charged’. He will not take dummy off me or lift it if my hand near it.
Should I teach the take hold or go straight to retrieve and click only when comes close with dummy and or presents it?
Hi Ryan, I am not quite sure where you are in the process. Did you work through steps 1-10 above? Pippa
Thanks Pippa. Really simple but informative site. General question:
my dogs (1 and 3) both have drive to get out, pick up, and return, not always to hand but working on this. Does your clicker training add to this, or is it only for dogs who are still learnng the above?
Hi Lourens, clicker training can solve the delivery to hand problem. As to whether it increases ‘drive’ overall, I could speculate, but I have seen no evidence one way or another as I have not used the technique on any dog that does not already have a lot of drive. Pippa
Fantastic, take it one step at a time. You are making good progress! Well done 🙂
Móses Halldórsson says
We made a great breakthrough today, Bruno lifted the dummy up first by the corner and then he took it up and went away with it a couple of times, now I would like him to place the dummy in my hand 🙂
Móses Halldórsson says
It’s working he’s nipping with his teeth now, Pippa your mehod is working on the first day after only two sessions thanks allot. Now I only hefto work on unpredictaple nipping with his teeth and then he shoould open his mouth. Could the fact that I have brushed his teeth without his concent have a part in my problems??
Thanks again 🙂
Glad to hear you are making progress. Yes, it is possible that forcible tooth brushing may have added to your dog’s reluctance to open his mouth. But there is no reason why you should not overcome this in time. 🙂
Móses Halldórsson says
Great input I will do this, thanks allot for your help.
Móses Halldórsson says
Thank‘s Pippa for your advise, Yes you are right I did try it a couple of times when seeking help at my Dog club and my 10 month old Brittany was not happy at all, this happened five days ago. I saw your video of exactly this training in section 3 and it went much better since he seem to like to fetch the treet inbetween touching the dummy. He did get a little excited and placed the paw on the dummy but didn‘t open his mouth, I‘ve had two sessions with him like this both about 7 min long and he had allot of fun. (before I sat at a chair and gave the treat above the dummy) But as soon as I start to wait with the treet hoping he will pick up the dummy he just lies down and looks the other way trying to calm me down I think.
Should I just continue keeping it fun and continue c&t for touching the dummy untill he will pick it up. And if so for how long ??
Thanks again for a detailed response and best wishes from Finland.
Get him having fun again and when he is repeatedly touching the dummy for your C&T, start to be more discriminating. Watch him carefully and start to click for touches with his mouth/lips rather than his nose/nostrils. Once you have some mouth touches, stop the C&T for nose touches. When you have achieved plenty of mouth touches then you can start looking for any sign that he is opening his mouth. So, licking, touching with his teeth etc. You are working your way towards an open mouth touch. It is difficult to predict how long this will take, because he is wary of having the dummy against his mouth. You may need to be patient. He is only young. You will get there!
Moses Halldorsson says
Hi and thanks for a good article and website. I have a almost 11 mounth old Brittany active male, which is now exactly at the point where he thouches every dummy he seas with the nose but does not pick it up. I have been at this point for now three weeks and I really don’t want to force it to his mouth like some people have told me. I have had numerous sessions where he just get’s bored and basicly quits. Please tell me how to proceed at this point.
Hi Moses, are you following this clicker programme, and what are you using for rewards? Thanks, Pippa
Moses Halldorsson says
Yes I am using the clicker both for agillity and hunting, I use chicken hearts which have been boiled and dried a little in oven. I sometimes use cheese but very rarely and today I even tried his favorite raw turkey meat.
Although the end result of clicker training is an effectively ‘trained’ behaviour, at the time it is happening, clicker training is just a game to the dog.
The dog won’t play the game if the stakes aren’t high enough (rewarding enough) or if the dog suspects that there is a possibility of punishment. Because then it is no longer a game.
It is just a thought, but if you have ever tried to push the dummy into the dog’s mouth, then he may be very wary of placing his open mouth around the dummy.
Many years ago, I found myself in this position with a springer spaniel. I had tried to teach her a ‘hold’ by placing the dummy in her mouth, and then switched to the clicker. She was very reluctant to pick up the dummy for several weeks. But the breakthrough came eventually. I had to go back to very high value rewards and lower my expectations for a while.
Generally, if you reach a sticking point with the clicker, there are several things you can do:
Make sure to train hungry – several hours after a meal (the dog not you!)
reduce session length – so if the dog is losing interest after ten minutes, drop back to five, or three, or two. Stop whilst he is ‘in the game’
If you have been training sporadically, increase session frequency – several shorter sessions a day rather than one or two longer ones. If you have been training frequently, have a few day’s break
Increase reward value – use juicy (moist) strongly flavoured meats. Roast beef or chicken is ideal. Dryer food is less attractive
Check your timing. If you don’t have a knowledgeable clicker trainer to help you, check out some of the great clicker training videos on Youtube. Your timing will improve with practice.
You could try training a simpler clicker skill for a few days and then return to the retrieve when you are more practiced.
Hope that helps
Sticking points do happen, but they pass if you persist. Good luck!
Great! can’t wait to get started 🙂