Training dogs clicker style
This summer Harper Adams University College hosted Higher Education Choices and over 200 young people came to try their hand at various activities that they might encounter if they went on to higher education. I was lucky enough to be asked to design and carry out an activity. I couldn't resist and decided to build my activity around dog training. I am passionate about dogs so an opportunity to share this passion needs to be grabbed quickly...
Students were given an opportunity to learn about a popular training tool - the clicker - and then took it in turns to train each other to carry out various daft activities. Students 'clicked' whenever the "human - dog" was getting 'warmer' when attempting to find out what the desired daft activity was but stayed quiet when the "human - dog" was getting it wrong. I found myself being trained by the students too in order to break the ice - I am not sure ending up standing on one leg on a chair while waving my arms is in my job description though :)
We then introduced negative feedback in the form of verbal abuse everytime the 'human - dog' got it wrong. I ended up being a bit worried as I seemed to be the only one shouting and being horrid - which is not what I wanted to achieve...and our 'human - dog' seemed emotionally crushed. Thankfully that did not last - but it did mean that everyone quickly realised how even a little bit of harsh correction during training can make the dog too stressed to learn easily :(
Finally, students divided into groups and each group was given one of my dogs (who all come to work with me - what a perk!) to attempt to clicker train in the remainder of the session. The dogs were taught to go under chairs, pick up keys and bark on command - although I am not sure that the latter was intended!
All in all, it was a fun session and I cannot wait for HEC to come around again!