Capturing is one of the easiest ways to teach your dog a new behavior, and it’s perfect for lazy trainers! Perhaps this is why it’s my favorite method of training the basics, such as attention, sit, and lie down.
To capture a behavior, carry the clicker around the house with you. You can slide it in a pocket, put it on a lanyard around your neck, or use a string to make a clicker bracelet. Just make sure you’ve got it handy. Any time your dog does something you like, click the clicker and give your dog a reward. Rewards can be carried with you (perhaps by throwing some kibble in your pocket), kept handy in common areas of the house (a can of easy cheese lives on top of my bookshelf), or stashed ahead of time in strategic locations (hide the tennis ball in a flower pot when the dog’s not looking).
Capture as many behaviors as you can throughout the day! Remember, the clicker tells your dog he’s doing something right, so click anything and everything you like.
If your puppy dances into the room chewing on his toy and making it squeak, click and play with him! If your hyper adolescent dog lies down on his dog bed quietly instead of pacing around, click and give him a soothing massage. Does your dog do something cute that would make a wonderful trick? Click it and hand him a treat! This is a great way to teach tricks like “take a bow” (my dogs bow when I ask “Who’s your queen?”) or “say you’re sorry” (where the dog puts his head on his paws). Be generous, and click your dog for all the wonderful things he does throughout the day!
In the beginning stages of capturing, dogs often don’t know what they’re being clicked for. That’s okay! This is a normal part of the learning process. At some point, the light bulb will go off. The dog will start to offer the behaviors that have been clicked in the past, often somewhat tentatively as if asking, “is this right?” Yes! Excellent! Make sure you make a big deal over this, so he knows he’s on the right track.
Here’s a video of Dobby learning to bow. At the time of this video, he’d been clicked for bowing for about a month, and was starting to offer bows as a way to earn a treat. Note how when I accidentally click him for lying down, he begins offering downs instead.
Once your dog begins to offer a behavior regularly, you can put it on cue. We’ll talk about how to do this in future posts. In the meantime, have you ever tried to capture any behaviors? If so, what behaviors have you captured with your dog?