Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ears' to Clicking

Ms. X is a fan of the clicker, and clicker training in general. It works very well for tasks and behavior manipulations where you want the dog to do something he doesn't to do, without a fight.

One of my babies needs an ear cleaning. I have the cleaning solution, I called the dog, and dropped some in. You would have thought I was trying to dress him up like Tinkerbell Hilton.

(image from

He threw all the nervous signs at me. He backed away, showed the half moon whites, whined, shook his head vigorously (yeah that's why we're doing this in the first place).

Fine. If you're going to be like that, doggy, we'll just have to . . . do it my way.

That means getting out the clicker, and, um, bribing/tricking/conditioning you to do this exactly the way I want to. (Caaattt fooooodd!) Of course, that I am saddled with an uncooperative mutt that doesn't like liquids squirted on him means I'm going to have to put some training effort out here.

Why is it always the uncooperative ones that get the owies? Why doesn't Miss Compliant-even-in-the-Face-of-Houndstooth-Ruffles get the ear infection?

All I wanted to do was put a little cleaning solution in his sensitive ear.

So, I did what any lazy dog owner does that doesn't want to endure a fight. I looked up the clicker training solution.

Yup. Karen Pryor has it right there on her website.

The directions say to lay out the steps of your plan in advance, and then train each one.

My plan is this:
  1. Say "ears", dog comes over, lays head in lap.
  2. Pick up cleaning solution bottle, squirt in ear.
  3. Massage ear.
  4. Wipe out excess.
  5. Say "all done!"
Each of those steps will probably be broken down further. Today we covered step one. The problem dog needs very little encouragement to lay his head in my lap, so today I motioned him over, said "ears" and click/treat. I rubbed his head, and his ears while I did this, click/treat regularly. And I got a little sneaky and put the solution bottle in my lap too.

No nervousness evidenced. Tomorrow we'll advance to putting some moisture in his ear, probably just a little water at first, and drying them out.

Hmmm. I might need some more cat food.

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