Trick Training for Cats - Christine Hauschild - ebook

A book for anybody who wants to nurture their cat's talents and relieve their tame tiger's boredom The trick with the click! Cats are clever animals and are often hopelessly under-stimulated in the daily grind of indoor life. This book shows cat owners how to nurture their cat both in body and mind and how to teach them a variety of different tricks and exercises using clicker training in a cat-friendly way. Great fun for owner and cat!

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Smart fun with the clicker


by Christine Hauschild


My special thanks go to the photographers Christina Boumala and Kai Nissen as well as the animal trainers Helena Dbalý and Christina Nissen for their dedicated cooperation and the marvellous photographs. Honour where honour is due goes to the photographic stars of this book: Birne, Cuno, Eazy, Faramir, Lütti, Plato and ZsaZsi.



The Gender Question

The ‘she’ pronoun has been used throughout the text. It is however not gender-specific and tomcats as well as queens are invited to join in the fun.



Dedicated to

Special Agent ZsaZsi and heroic Tomcat Eazy




Copyright © 2011 Cadmos Publishing Ltd, Richmond Upon Thames, UK

Copyright of original edition © 2010 Cadmos Verlag GmbH, Schwarzenbek, Germany

Layout der Originalausgabe: jb:design – Johanna Böhm, Möhnsen

Translation: Konstanze Allsopp

Editorial: Anneke Bosse, Christopher Long


Cover photograph: JBTierfoto

Text photos: Christina Boumala, Kai Nissen, Elina Rüter

E-Book: Print Web Software GmbH


All rights reserved: No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

A catalogue record of this book is available from the British Library.


Printed in Germany


ISBN 978-0-85788-400-8


eISBN 978-0-85788-616-3



Tricks with cats? How to use this book

From click to trick

The most important tool – the clicker

It is time for humans – the clicker game

The meaning of the click – a change from a simple sound to a great promise

Step One: Conditioning your cat to understand the meaning of the click

Suitable titbits

Step Two: The click sound means ‘Correct behaviour!’

Is everything well planned? Preparing for clicker training

Knowing what you want – the training goal

Where and when – training place and time

More than just accessories – the training tools

Short but intensive – the length of a training session

As often as you and your cat want

The time has come: Introducing trick training

Touching the target stick with the nose

Finger target

The first technique towards the completed trick: Shaping

Shaping up the trick

Sit on the blanket

The second technique towards the completed trick: Support with targets or titbits

Sit pretty (aka: Begging for a bone)

Jumping over an obstacle

The third technique towards the completed trick: Capturing

Capturing spontaneous behaviour – always ready


What is a good signal?

Why won’t it work?



101 things to do with …!

Ideas for tricks

Be creative

Paw targets – example: High Five

Recognising colours

Nose-to-nose kisses

Pet carrier: cats on tour

Weaving in and out of your legs

Front paws on lower arm

Jumping through a hoop

Jumping between chairs

Balancing act


Through a tunnel

Obstacle course

101 Movements

Other ideas for tricks

Trick training with several cats

Excursion into door training

Clicker training with several cats at the same time

Studying joint tricks with several cats

Jumping over another cat



Further Reading



Contact the author


Tricks with cats? How to use this book

(Photo: Nissen)

Tricks with cats?How to use this book

In my opinion, clicker training is one of the most entertaining and rewarding things that a human being and his/her cat can do together. The aim is not to reduce the status of the cat to that of a subservient creature without any willpower of her own that jumps if we command her to ‘jump’.


Clicker training encourages cats to be active, to try to explore new behaviour patterns and to improve their agility. It can help timid cats to gain more selfesteem, passive cats to develop more initiative, and impatient and unruly cats to improve their self-control. Most importantly, this type of training requires that your cat uses her mind and learns new things. It is therefore a great method to fight against chronic lack of challenges in the everyday environment of many housebound cats.

At the start of your trick training you will have two roles to fulfil. You are learning something completely new, but from the start you are also the trainer of your cat. It depends largely on your qualities as a trainer how easily and with what enjoyment your cat is able to learn the tricks. Clicker training is based on the voluntary cooperation of your cat, and you will succeed if your training is fun for your cat. This can depend on a multitude of small and large factors, therefore it is worthwhile if you familiarise yourself with these factors before you start your training.

I am sure that you have already had a browse through the pages of this book and have read one or the other trick instructions. At least, that is what I would have done in your place, and my fingers would be itching to start immediately with the first exercise! However, I would ask you to take some time with your preparation. Your cat will only be able to carry out trick training with success and enjoyment if you lead her through the exercises without hesitation and in a calm manner. You will only achieve this if you first acquire the necessary knowledge and do a bit of practical work as well. Don’t worry; this is not a textbook! You will be able to start the training with your cat very soon.

You will find the instructions for the first tricks, together with further information regarding training techniques, from here→ onwards. Please follow the exercises in this chapter with your cat in the given order, as they form the basis of all subsequent tricks and exercises. Following that, you will be able to teach your cat all the other tricks and ideas in this book. Initially you should practise clicking with a person; work on your timing and get some experience under your belt. If that works well, you will be able to show your cat the path to a variety of different tricks. Also, allow her a bit of time to learn what the principle of clicker training is about. You will recognise the moment when your cat has ‘clicked’ with what you want from her!


I wish you many wonderful moments, exciting discoveries and loads of fun during your clicker training!


Christine Hauschild, August 2010


From click to trick

(Photo: Boumala)

From click to trick

The tricks described in this book will be taught with the help of clicker training – a fascinating technique to make your cat understand what you expect from her. She will be motivated to carry out other actions by means of the clicker training.


The most important tool – the clicker


The most important training tool that you need is the clicker. It is the kind of cricket toy which makes a sharp, short sound when you press down on it. These days you can easily get a clicker either from a pet shop or on the Internet. They come in different forms and colours and – this aspect is important for your cat – in different volume levels. The quietest clicker that I know of is the so-called I-click, which was developed by the clicker pioneer Karen Pryor.

You can also employ other sounds as an alternative to the clicker, for example the clicking sound of a biro pen. However, whichever clicker you choose to use needs to fulfil two criteria: it should always sound the same, and it must not be a sound that the cat hears constantly outside the training sessions during her day-to-day experiences. Unless you click your tongue to call your cat or tell her that food is ready (which is something a lot of people do), I would recommend the tongue-clicking sound. Clicking with the tongue is well-suited as a clicking sound and offers two great advantages: you will have your hand free because you don’t have to hold the clicker, and you can also click your tongue spontaneously outside training sessions.


Clicker training tools: different target sticks, selection of titbits, clicker hoop, small titbit can, and pouch. (Photo: Nissen)


Do you have problems clicking your tongue?

In this case, try to make a loud kissing sound – a real smacker – this creates a similar sound.



It is time for humans – the clicker game


It is time to proceed with the first practical exercise. However, in this first exercise you don’t use the clicker on your cat. Instead, try it out with another person. Invite your partner, a friend or your child to play the clicking game – you can promise them a lot of fun without investing too much!

The clicker game works as follows: imagine an action that your game partner should carry out. Start with something simple: to sit on a specific chair; to touch the window handle; to touch the light switch. Do not tell your game partner what you expect from him/her, but ask them instead to figure out by themselves what you want them to do by trying out a number of different things. Use the clicker as a helpful aid. Explain to your partner that the click means: ‘Great, you are on the right track’ and that you will not speak to him/her in any other way, nor are you allowed to give them additional hints. You will point them towards the right goal solely by means of the clicker.

Touching the light switch, for example, could proceed as follows: your partner looks or moves in the direction of the light switch – click! He/she looks in another direction – no click. He/she looks roughly towards the light switch again – click! He/she moves a leg to step in the correct direction – click! Another step – click! However, if he/she moves past the light switch and through the door – no click. He/she asks: ‘Shouldn’t I go this way?’ You smile in a gentle manner, don’t say a word and wait for the next opportunity to click: he/she turns around – click! If he/she now walks past the light switch in the other direction –no click! He/she turns around again – click! He/she is now limited to the space near the door frame and touches it with his/her hand – click! He/she touches the door frame again at the height of the light switch – click! If he/she touches the doorframe much higher than the light switch – no click! He/she touches the doorframe again at the same height as the light switch – click! He/she moves his/her hand in the direction of the light switch – click! If he/she presses down the light switch – click and verbal confirmation: ‘Great! That’s exactly what I wanted!’

This sounds very easy but it requires a number of things from the trainer. To begin with you need to think in detail about what result you want to see at the end of the exercise. You should envisage in your mind which signs your game partner could offer on the way to the ultimate goal. That could mean a first step in the direction of the target object, but as a rule you will probably have to start with an earlier sign: a look at or a slight leaning forwards in the right direction. Unless you have defined these small steps for yourself in advance, you will automatically start pondering over them during the game. ‘Should I click this action now? One step is good, of course, but it wasn’t completely in the right direction. Hmm, maybe I should have already clicked a moment ago, when he/she looked in that direction …’. While all these thoughts go around in your head, your game partner is not rewarded with a click. That isn’t a very nice feeling, as in the first place your game partner does not get the expected confirmation that his/her action was right and secondly he/she will feel slightly helpless, a feeling which can restrict further activities and attempts. It is clear that a high level of clarity and the greatest degree of attention are needed in order that you don’t miss even the slightest attempts and movements.


‘Something to do with the drawer?’ The light switch is already close but is yet to be recognised as the target object. (Photo: Nissen)


This ensures that your game partner will find the game easier and will experience a greater sense of motivation, if he/she is rewarded with a click as a result of an action on his/her part. In order for that to work, the clicker needs to be used at the exact moment of the action. For example, if you want your partner to walk several steps forward, you always need to click at the exact moment when he/she lifts a leg to step forward. If you are slightly late and use the clicker when your partner has placed his/her foot back on the ground, he/she will hesitate and stop, because you are signalling to him/her that he/she is supposed to have both legs firmly on the ground and should not step forwards any further.

Your game partner will be a marvellous indicator of your ability to use the clicker correctly. To begin with he/she will probably frequently complain, ‘What do you want me to do now?’ or ‘I don’t understand what you want me to do…’. You should make use of these complaints to analyse which things present difficulties for your game partner. The better you become, the less frequently these moments will occur, and your partner will perform certain behavioural patterns during the exercise with increasing speed and with greater enjoyment.

You should definitely swap places as well. You will experience what it feels like if the clicker isn’t used at the precise moment of your action or is used infrequently, and feel how great it is when one click is followed closely by another and all your actions are confirmed in each case through the ‘Correct!’ click.

If possible, practise with a number of different people in order to become competent with various characters – every person and every cat has slightly different behavioural strategies which will become apparent in the clicker situation. Think of differing tasks and slowly increase their degree of difficulty. Have the last five of your clicker games been fluent, fun and successful? Did your game partners ask for more? If that is the case you can start practising with your cat. However, we need to make sure in advance that your cat understands what the click sound means.



The meaning of the click – a change from a simple sound to a great promise


At the moment, your cat hasn’t got a clue. She doesn’t know that she will soon experience a regular daily fun-filled work-out to liven up her boring day-to-day routine, and at this moment the click sound has absolutely no meaning for your cat. If she hears a click, she will probably look up for a moment to determine what kind of sound it is and will then continue to do what she was doing beforehand anyway.

We change that by associating the click with something very rewarding for the cat – or to be precise, with a titbit.


Step One: Conditioning your cat to understand the meaning of the click

Depending on the appetite of your cat, prepare between five and eight small treats. Take them in one hand and the clicker in the other and go and sit with your cat.