Meet the stars :) 🐈 We're going to train a "high five", on the way learning how to teach any trick or behavior in future. NOTE: Wear headphones so your cat can't hear the clicks in this guide!
The click is used to mark behavior. It's like saying "good boy! Whatever you just did earned you a treat!" Only it's a lot shorter and clearer, much less ambiguous for an animal to interpret.
Click ALWAYS means a treat is coming. Even if you clicked by accident.
During clicker sessions, keep petting/touching/ speaking to a minimum. Let your cat make his own choices, let the gears in his head turn without distraction. Do not stop him from leaving, either.
Start with a happy, eager cat, and delicious treats. I used chunks of premium cat food. Little bits of plain cooked chicken would've been less messy and easier to portion out though..
At no point will we be physically manipulating the cat's paw into a high five. That only teaches him to tolerate you messing with his paw, it doesn't show him what to do!
Sit down and guard the treats :)
Note: I didn't have a clicker when I filmed this, so I just simulated the noise with my mouth. If you do this consistently (don't use the noise for anything else!) you won't need to buy a clicker.
First we want to teach that click = treat. Hold out your finger and click as he instinctively sniffs it. Next time, ask him to go a bit further. Repeat till the concept is solid.
Finger targeting is useful, from "come here" to "jump on my lap", to luring him into positions like sit or down. My "train your cat to love brushing" guide shows examples. Excuse my stomach rumble! 😳
Trick example based on previous video: once he is reliably turning, say "spin" just before twirling your finger. Gradually fade away the finger cue, and "spin" will be the new cue for the trick :)
Note: Cue, NOT command! A command is a veiled threat- "do this, or else!" A cue is a voluntary invite. If your cat decides not to participate, do not pester him! That'll make him dislike training.
Don't say "spin" ten times in a row- he is not deaf! Say it clearly once, and if he doesn't spin, there's no treat. Try again later, get tastier treats, or go back to pairing it with the finger cue.
Back to high five: Target above his head, so high that he's tempted to reach with a paw. Initially click even for a slightly raised paw, then raise the criteria; paw has to touch hand, no claws, etc.
OOPS! At first I totally missed this wonderful chance to capture (aka click) this paw reach! If you mess up, don't sweat it.
You might succeed in one session, or it might happen in incremental baby steps. Don't stress, make sure he is getting clicks often enough so he does not lose interest.
When he's expecting a click but you're holding out for more, (lifting paw higher, or whatever behavior you're shaping) don't push your luck too much. Let him succeed, make it easy, not frustrating.
"clicker-wise" cats know: if at first you don't succeed, try something a bit different & don't give up; it's a guessing game. But at first, raise criteria slowly. It's good to end sessions on a high.
Like if he's made good progress, you can surprise him by giving him the rest of the treats for one click. That's a great way to end a session :)
Change the cue from finger to hand. This may be confusing, so loosen your criteria for earning a click again- a lifted paw is enough, like before. I was initially a bit slow to react in the vid 😬
Once he's got it you can gradually raise the criteria again - only click for ever more perfect high fives. You can do that over the next few days as this is already a lot for one session.
Cats like to "challenge the game". He's doing the trick reliably and he clearly knows what to do.. aaand the next second he just "forgot"? I bet he's actually looking for another way to get the food.
If this happens, offer the cue (in this case the hand) but don't shove it in his face. He knows it's there, he's choosing to ignore it. Waving it around excessively will not change that.
“maybe you’ll give me treats if I just sit/lie here?” at this point it is VITAL that you do not say “oh ok fine, I’ll just give you the rest of the treats for free,” or he will be forever testing you.
He may just be tired or full, that's fine. Or he gave up because you were making it too difficult. Or he'd prefer different treats. Either way, pack away your things and resume tomorrow.
Got no time for a training session? Ask for an already know trick to "earn" the food bowl.
Cat tripping you in the kitchen? Add the criteria "sitting quietly/not annoying the humans" before you even give the cue for the pre-food trick. No leg weaving in kitchen -> cue -> trick -> food!
This also works wonders for other things, like begging during dinner. Instead of scolding, teach an alternative. You'll love it because you're not annoyed, he'll love it because he's getting food :)
Once a trick is learned & well practiced, you can skip the click and go right from trick to treat, if you like. Still, it's good to reinforce the click now and then :)
Also, no clicking in hindsight. If you missed it, don't click after he's done it, just skip to the treat. The click is for marking *current* behavior.
Keep a few treats ready in the fridge so you can capture behavior throughout the day. Just sitting on his bed or using his scratching post, to that spectacular backflip while playing- click it!
With a little thought and creativity, this technique can be used for any trick. It's not "just" a fun circus act, it improves your relationship and it can be used to solve real problems :)
UPDATE! He'll be "paw-aware" after learning this — you can use that new skill to capture other paw-related tricks. I thought the paw-over-face was too cute.
You can turn the high five into a wave. Change the cue to a waving hand, then slowly build up distance and paw-waving-duration. Soon he'll be waving at you from across the room!
You can surely also adapt this to teach a hand/paw-shake, but we didn't have time for that today.
Q: What about the black one? A: He was content to hang back and get a treat for being patient from time to time.
Above all, enjoy the wonderful creature/s you share your life with. Don't just coexist with your cat- communicate and have fun :)
UPDATE: here's my friends cat, she learned to high five in one session :3 Sorry for the low brightness.
UPDATE: Nose bumps! Use the finger target close to your face… gradually get it closer to your nose. Repeat this a lot to start with. Keep your eyes almost-closed, look away & blink, don't stare at him
Pause before using the finger target. Grow the pause, we want him to think "oh, maybe I'll try moving towards your nose even if your finger isn't there yet.." Click if he attempts this even a little.
As you can see, don't be surprised if he reverts to using his paw. I've never really been scratched doing this, but proceed at your own risk.
Then raise criteria- start clicking only for proper nose bumps. There you go!👃 many thanks to the cats and their owner for letting me do this!
This is my own cat learning the nose bump when he was pretty young. filmed from my display because I'm lazy, not sure you can hear the clicks but trust me they're there 😇