Much of training is an art. However, mechanical skills are a huge part of training and can make the different between a decent trainer and a great trainer. It’s tough to be a great trainer if you’re still struggling with basic mechanics. Holding a lead rope or leash while trying to manage a clicker and a few treats and maybe even a target stick or some other object can be a handful, even for an experienced trainer!
The good news is that many of the mechanical skills of training can be practiced and simulated without the animal present. By doing this, we can improve our skills without confusing the animal.
Susquehanna Service Dogs recently ran a six post series on some of the basics of clicker training. The first two posts, which dealt with exercises to improve mechanics and timing, included some really great ideas, especially for those new to clicker training or for those who want to improve their timing and mechanics.
One great exercise they describe is the Tennis Ball Game. Have a friend bounce a tennis ball and click every time the ball hits the ground. Or, click every time the ball reaches it’s highest point. Can you mark an exact moment with your clicker? Here’s the full post for more ideas, including things you can do while watching TV.
The first post in the series also has some good suggestions for practicing treat delivery.
Do you have any favorite exercises or simulations that you’ve done (or that you recommend to others) to improve timing, treat delivery or mechanical skills?