Cooper's Great Adventure

ScamperCooper and Scamper are now very good with Sit, Puppy Up and Touch. I work with  Scamper for a few minutes every night at bedtime. If I should think I'm going to skip  and get to bed a little quicker, she lets me know that's not appreciated. She will also go through all her commands with Bill, so it's not just mom-oriented. She's been working on Sit and' Wait, which she's not sure she likes. There's a good bit of tail swishing  involved, but she's getting the idea. Sam had taught Scamper that when the humans  are having, dinner you sit quietly until the mom takes the last bite, and then she gives you a treat. Since he's been gone, she's lost track of the sit quietly part and tends to get  her claw in my pant leg or the tablecloth or on the antique oak table. The first time I insisted that she Sit, she gave me a pout look, but she did it, and now we have no issue with claw snags and scratches! I work with Cooper less frequently, in part because he caught on quicker and in part due to still having to keep him and Scamper separated.

And Mickey gets the short end of the stick because he's just so enthusiastic - about everything! I'll have him responding to a "Spin" command before I get him to sit. If I move the target and ask them to "Follow", Scamper and Cooper will both walk a few steps and then stop and look confused when they can't touch the target because it's moving. Mickey, however, will follow the target without the least hesitation to wherever I make it go - onto a chair, shelf, bookcase, bed, whatever is near at hand - or in circles like he's chasing his tail.

Mickey and CooperWith traditional clicker training, you gradually decrease the frequency of treats and the click becomes the motivation. I've gone in a different direction, always giving a treat but  using my hand as the target and not always using the clicker. I'm particularly interested in developing the Touch command this way for use as a recall. My cats will come when called from another room, but when they're in the same room they tend to just look at me like "What?" Or they're like Mickey, who heads off in the other direction to see if he can get a game of Chase the Kitty going. With the Touch command they will actually come right over to my hand, and I like that!

We made some progress with Scamper and Cooper together, feeding them with no  barrier between, having Cooper go through his clicker commands with treats - as long as there's food involved he doesn't care about her. One day early in September when I was about to put their food down Scamper actually gave Cooper a head butt, her greatest sign of affection. Then a couple nights later at treat time he just jumped on her. I have no clue as to what was up with him, but that was a definite setback.  Unfortunately we've had a couple more setbacks since then, so we are back to closed doors and baby gates for the time being. I still have hope that getting them together for  five minutes at a time will lead to peaceful coexistence.

My brother, Tom, has Alzheimer's and is in an assisted living facility. There is a  resident cat, Fenway, and the people who work there often bring their dogs with them.  It's in a rural area, and one day when we were there to visit one of the girls came in with a baby goat that she set down and let run around for a while. My sister-in-law almost always brings their elderly English Cocker with her. So I thought this would be a good outing for Cooper, who loves people. We told him the night before and again in the  morning that he was going on an adventure in the afternoon. I was out in the morning  on a chilly and sunny day. I left the carrier on a chair on the enclosed porch where it  would be warm. When I got home I told him we'd go in a few minutes, and when I came  back into the kitchen he was sitting by the porch door, so I let him out there and went to do one more thing. When I came back he was in the carrier. My response was, "Don't be telling me you don't understand exactly what I'm saying when I tell you I need you to be nice to Scamper!"

CooperAnyway, off we went. Cooper was in his glory with all the attention, performing all his clicker commands in his harness and leash and thoroughly impressing everyone. He quickly decided my brother's dog posed no threat, but wasn't quite so sure of the German Shepherd that belongs to one of the attendants. Mako is a sweetheart of a dog, and Cooper was less intimidated when he was back in his safe carrier. He'd love to go  back and I think he'd make friends with the big dog, except for the fact that the roads between home and there are very winding and bumpy, and poor Cooper lost his lunch twice on the way out and once more on the way home. We might try it again with the homeopathic that I use myself for motion sickness, but if that doesn't work I'm afraid  Cooper's visits to my brother will be over.

Meanwhile, around the holidays we've had company at home several times, and Cooper loves to have his fan club come to visit him. He greets everyone, shows off for them and makes sure each one had a chance to pet and fuss over him. Scamper and Mickey stay under the bed when there's company, so Coop gets his fan club all to himself and he  likes it that way, thank you. When there are just a couple of visitors he'll go through his whole routine and enjoy showing off. However, at Christmas we had a dozen people and there was just too much excitement for him to concentrate. Guests included a two and a half year old boy. Boy and cat took a few minutes to figure each other out, then followed each other around for a bit. By the end of the afternoon Owen was giving Cooper a kiss on the head and Cooper was turning over for a belly rub from Owen. I wish I had video of that!

Mickey & JudiI'll be working more with Mickey in the next few weeks. He's still young and energetic and needs something to occupy/challenge him. For Scamper and Cooper, we're going  to try a new product that is intended to help keep the peace between cats that don't get along, and I'm really hoping to be able to report that they can be in the same room without World War III breaking out!

Adventures in Clicker Training for Cats

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Holistic Veterinary Center
34 West Street
Concord, NH  03301
Phone: 603-225-9680 • Fax: 603-227-0945
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