Note: For purposes of this blog, I have changed our original process with Shelby from a verbal marker to a clicker. As some of you know, we started Smokey out with a clicker and Shelby with a verbal marker and then moved to a clicker after a month or so. I’m not sure why we used a verbal marker for Shelby at first, except that I kept forgetting to take my clicker to class, but now that I have one in literally every piece of clothing I own, every room and every purse, that’s no longer a problem ^.^ Happy reading – Love, Aimee, Joe, Smokey, Shelby and Apollo (the newly clicker trained cat)
In honor of some new members of the Omorrow pack who may be looking for some beginning help in clicker training, I present to you, the chapter of my life entitled “Starting Shelby on the Clicker”, soon to be followed by “Starting Shelby on the Sheep” 🙂
Shelby came to us after a very tragic time in our lives, as most of you know, but she was just what our little family needed. The excitement of bringing home a new puppy all but crackled and popped in my veins. Every day dripped by, an irritation that couldn’t be consoled.
And then, there she was. I’m sure when I pulled Shelby out of her air crate at the Philadelphia airport she was probably thinking, “Put me back in there and send me home. Who are you? And what is this awful smell?” Then came the car ride, car sickness, a new house, a new brother, a new yard. Everything was new and confusing and probably scary.
So as soon as she and Smokey said hi and got acquainted with one another, I let her nap in my lap, getting accustomed to my smell. When she woke up, she was finally eating some of her kibble, so I got out my clicker, got a handful of her kibble mixed in with tiny pieces of peanut butter training treats and sat on the floor with her. I put the clicker in my pocket so the noise wasn’t too loud for still sensitive puppy ears and clicked once. I immediately popped a piece of kibble in her mouth. The minute she finished chewing, click, kibble. Click, kibble. Then – JACKPOT – click, training treat. Her tail wagged, and she stepped onto my lap and started nosing my pocket where the treats were coming from, then she nosed the pocket where the click was coming from. Click, kibble, what a smart puppy.
Ten clicks and treats was all she got before I put the rest of her kibble and a few small treats in her bowl and let her finish. From that moment, she was hooked.
The next day when I took her out of her kennel and walked her, before I put her bowl on the floor, I took a handful of kibble and clicked. She immediately looked at me, and I popped some food in her mouth. Click, kibble, click kibble. Her tail wagged furiously while Smokey laid in the kitchen and watched, an amused look on his face. I think he must have been thinking, “What a silly puppy, getting so excited over kibble, and a few treats, you don’t even know about them breaking out the big guns yet.”
Meanwhile, while I clicked and treated Shelby I began to say her name. “Shelby” she looked at me, click and treat. “Shelby” looked at me, click and treat. Five click and treats later, she might not have known her name was Shelby, but boy did she know that Shelby was certainly a good thing (whatever it was) and certainly worth coming to.
It took about 12 hours before Shelby started following me everywhere and anywhere I went. I quickly became the source of “all things great and wonderful” in Shelby’s life, and I haven’t ceased to be that since. When I am unavailable, Shelby easily transfers her adoration to Joe, who is the source of “all things great and wonderful when mommy isn’t around”.
Sure we have bad days and we have good days, and we have really great days, just like any puppy owning experience. We have sad days and angry days and happy days. We have play days, lazy days, snow days and rain days. But everyday, no matter what is going on, we have the clicker, and in Shelby’s opinion, that makes every day a good day. In my opinion, it makes every bad day, a better day, and every better day an awesome day.