It’s ideal (perhaps even essential) to learn the process of when/how to click and how to deliver the treat with a person standing in for the horse. The more adept we are with the mechanics of treat delivery before heading out to the horse, the more our horse will buy into our confidence that we know what we are doing.
We want to practice with another person until we have the mechanics of click timing and treat delivery in our muscle memory. Then, when we start with the horse, we can focus more clearly on the horse and the consistency of our actions.
The first step to becoming a clicker trainer with good timing skills is to get our head around how to carry out the click&treat routine smoothly.
We need to practice enough to put the sequence of events into our muscle memory. If we are familiar and confident with what we are doing, the horse will buy into our confidence.
Neither person is allowed to speak.
You can put the clicker on a string around your neck or on a string around your wrist so you can let go of it to use your hand. However it takes lots of practice to smoothly slip the clicker back into position so that ‘letting go’ doesn’t interfere with good timing* of your next click.
- Have your hand ready on the clicker (if using a clicker).
- Present the target a little bit away from the person, so he or she must reach toward it slightly, to touch it.
- Wait for the person to touch the target with their hand (be patient).
- The instant they touch it, click or say your chosen word or sound.
- Lower the target down and behind your body to take it out of play.
- Reach into your pocket/pouch for the treat (maybe use coins or bits of cardboard or mini chocolates).
- Extend your arm fully to deliver the treat.
- Stretch your treat hand out flat so it is like a dinner plate with the treat on it.
- Keep your arm and flat hand firm, so your pretend horse can’t push it down as he takes the treat.
- When your pretend horse has taken the treat, relax and pause briefly, then begin again with slices one and two (hand on clicker, present target).
- Ignore any unwanted behavior as much as possible.
- Turn a shoulder or move your body/pouch out of reach if the person pretending to be your horse tries to mug you for a treat (in case you are using chocolate). Your pretend horse must learn that he or she earns the click&treat only by touching the target. If your ‘pretend horse’ is strongly invasive, put a barrier between you.
- Multiple short sessions (up to three minutes long) at different times during the day allow your brain and your muscle memory to absorb the technique, especially the finer points of timing.
- If your helper is willing, let him/her be the teacher and you take a turn being the horse. Playing with ‘being the horse’ is often a huge eye-opener. The ‘horse’ is not allowed to ask questions or make comments but he can use body language to express his opinions.