Ten Characteristics of Good Clicker Trainers: Part 7
1.) Clicker trainers, regardless of the species they are working with, love their animals.
2.) Clicker trainers focus on what they want, not the unwanted behavior.
3.) Clicker trainers are creative.
4.) Clicker trainers see every horse as an individual.
5.) Clicker Trainers love detail.
6.) Clicker Trainers are consistent.
7.) Clicker trainers take the time to fill in all the training pieces.
Good trainers are splitters not lumpers. That’s true whether they use clicker training or other more conventional methods. Good trainers break lessons down into many small steps and they take the time to fill in all the pieces. Lumpers lump. They ask for too much, too fast. That can be hard on a learner, especially when being wrong means you’re in trouble. In clicker training we make sure that the learner feels safe. It’s okay to experiment and make mistakes. And if a lesson begins to be too hard, we break it down into smaller, more manageable units. The result are clicker superstars.
One of our clicker superstars was an appaloosa named Crackers. Crackers belonged to one of my long term clients, Bob Viviano. They were two of our very early clicker pioneers. I began working with Bob originally because Crackers used to rush over fences. We began with foundation work. That included basic targeting which grew into fetching which grew into so much more. Bob taught Crackers a huge repertoire of target-related tricks. And then he began sharing Crackers with others. Crackers was a regular visitor to the Hole in the Wall Camp for children with cancer. He visited nursing homes and at Christmas he rang the bell for the Salvation Army.
Target-based tricks are easy to teach. Getting Crackers to open a mailbox, pull out a newspaper and hand it over to us was the work of an afternoon. That part was easy. The complex part of the training was filling in all the basic handling steps that would let Bob “take the show on the road”. Crackers had to be just as comfortable handing a small child in a wheel chair the newspaper as he was for any of us. And he had to do it in the parking lot of a busy shopping mall at Christmas time, or at the county fair with kites and hot air balloons flying over his head. Because Bob took the time to fill in all the training steps, he was able to share Crackers with thousands of people.
I’ve been at this work for such a long time now, we are losing our early pioneers. In September of 2012 at the age of 30 Bob lost his good friend. Crackers brightened so many lives. Bob led the way in showing how clicker training could be used to teach tricks. He had the fun of teaching Crackers, and then he shared the magic. One of the many stories Bob shared with me was of a little girl who decorated her hospital room with pictures of Crackers.
It was always Bob and Crackers. They were a team. If you knew Bob, you knew Crackers. And Crackers was always up for anything. From tricks to line dancing, he would perform for hours. As long as there were people who wanted to see him, Crackers was always willing. Bob not only made Crackers’ life better through clicker training, together they enriched the lives of the thousands of people they came in contact with. He is a great example of what can be achieved when you pay attention to the little things. It’s a wonderful legacy, and I know Crackers will be remembered with great love.
Coming soon: Part 8
Your Approved Alexandra Kurland
Clicker Training Instructor
in the UK…..