Hope finds targeting so powerful because the results with people and dogs are so rapid. Her time with the summer camp kids and the shelter dogs reinforced for Hope the power of clicker training and the impact of using only positive phrasing.
Hope employs many skills from the KPA program in her education work with the Humane Society. Since that summer camp, Hope has continued volunteering with kids visiting the organization. Recently, Hope and Heidi hosted 100 5th-graders. “Heidi and I demonstrated our tricks and behavior chains to help the kids understand the benefits of positive reinforcement, giving Heidi something she likes and wants, such as a treat, when she does the behavior I’m looking for.”
Some of the chains Hope made up on the spot, with a few chains requiring props like a hula hoop! She reports that the “kids went crazy. They loved how Heidi was like a little circus dog.” The behaviors that were the biggest hits included Heidi jumping over Hope’s leg and Heidi moving her paws like a bear when Hope said, “Do you see a BEAR?” The schoolchildren loved when Heidi sat down as Hope held up a large black-and-white card that that said SIT. “She can read!” they giggled.
When children ask about the “clicking sound,” Hope happily explains the clicker as a sound she uses to communicate to Heidi that she’s done the correct thing and can expect a treat. “If Heidi doesn’t hear a click, it tells her to try again.” In school sessions like these, Hope always makes clear that she will not punish or scold Heidi if she does not perform a desired behavior. “I will just ignore it and let it pass, moving on to ask Heidi to do something easier so that she can earn her click and treat.” Hope explains that “punishment is just not necessary. You can teach what you want with positive reinforcement.”
After some presentations, Hope teaches interested kids how to give the cues for Heidi’s behaviors—a wildly popular activity. At times, she includes student volunteers who hold the target stick, hold the hoop, hold the clicker, and hold the treats. “It is remarkable how well the children understand. They click at the right time and they give treats promptly.”
Hope’s goal is for school-age children leave her and Heidi’s sessions to spread the positive reinforcement way of thinking and acting to other children and to parents. In this way, fewer animals will be mistreated and more will get a click and a treat!
Hope finds many of the lessons from her time at KPA extremely useful in other areas of her life as well.