Clicker Training Your Bird Dog Pup
By Grayson Guyer
When I sat down to write this post I wanted to call it Reward Based and Marker Training Systems as an Integral Part of a Holistic Approach to Training Pointing Dogs, but I figured Clicker Training Your Bird Dog Pup might entice a few more clicks. It irks me to no end that somehow clicker, or more accurately, marker training is seen by many as a method only to be employed by the “positive only” crowd. Not that there is anything wrong with the “positive only” crowd as long as they’re not trying to limit the rights of others to train dogs the way that they see fit. Reward based training systems are very powerful and its high time that they see more mainstream use in the bird dog world, even amongst the “old school” crowd.
I will attempt to explain all the ways clicker and other markers may be used to develop a bird dog pup in a way that will relieve some stress in later training and help expedite the process. It may help to go back and read my earlier blog entries regarding basic behavioral principles as well as our How to Train a Dog series.
Establishing prey reward/Drive building
The term “ball drive” is often used in the working dog world to describe a dogs drive for inanimate toys, balls, tugs, etc. Ball drive is extremely useful in reward based, marker training systems. It’s an important objective to have the dog understand that controlling his impulse to chase/possess the prey object in the moment will animate or make it accessible it in the future.
Establishing food reward. Withhold and limit access to food in order to increase value of basic kibble. Establish variable value food rewards by introducing higher value food rewards (Cheese, liver treats, etc) on a limited basis. Kibble should be a baseline and should motivate the pup to work. Desired behaviors can either be free shaped or lured and shaped with food.
Everything below is in addition to regular exposure to birds and gunfire. Puppy will be run regularly with taglines and checkcords in order to counter condition the weight.
I will also make a few videos to go along with this series of posts. Check my YOUTUBE channel periodically for updated content.
1: Charge the mark (clicker or verbal)
2: Send to place board
3: Vibrate cue to recall
4: Duration on place
5: Add 3 D’s with inanimate distractors (balls, bumpers, etc)
6: Fade place board to touch pad -> no target
7: Develop verbal cue for stop without target (whoa)
8: Add thrown balls/bumpers as nonverbal cue for “whoa”
9: Add gunfire as nonverbal cue for “whoa”
10: Duration on place board with bird launched upwind
11: Stop to flush induced after whoa to gunfire -> reverse order
12: Reward based retrieve
Our next entry will cover charging the mark and establishing “place” in detail.