Clicker Training - Heres How!

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Clicker Training - Heres How!

Post by emmabeth » Tue Jun 19, 2007 9:50 pm

Clicker Training.

The clever posh sciencey term for clicker training is ‘operant conditioning’ – which sounds a bit weird.
Actually it isn’t, it’s the way we all learn, and what it means is, we repeat those behaviours that are rewarded ie have pleasant consequences, and we avoid those that are not rewarded, ie have unpleasant consequences.

In clicker training, the pleasant consequence is earning a click, and the click means, ‘get a treat’. The unpleasant consequence is simply not earning a click, thus no treat.

In human terms, the pleasant consequence of my cooking the dinner for my other half, is that he will do the washing up, which I hate.

In dog terms the pleasant consequence of sitting when asked, is a treat, which could be food or it could be his owners greeting him on their return to the house, or it could be a game or fuss.

The clicker itself is a box with a metal strip that makes a distinctive sound that is always the same. You don’t have to have a proper clicker, you can use something else such as a clicky pen, but clickers are designed to be easily handleable, and not to make that noise accidentally. They are very cheap also, so you may as well buy one.
The reason we use this, is that unlike a voice, the click is always the same. A click will never give away that you feel tired or sad or angry or annoyed, and so you don’t give your dog confusing signals with a clicker. Its also for most people much easier to click at the correct time, than it is to say ‘good dog’.

The other thing you need is your ‘pleasant consequence’ ie your reward. Now that depends on your dog, so choose the thing he would actually sell his soul for, as long as it isn’t poisonous (ie chocolate).

I find bits of cheese, liver cake, hot dog sausage etc, cut up really small work very well, other dogs like other things.

Some dogs don’t like food, they would prefer a toy and a quick game with that, so that’s fine too, just make sure it really is your dogs favourite toy and he only gets it as his clicker training reward.

So how does your dog know that the click means something, and what should the click mean?

You teach your dog that the click sound is always followed by a treat – never ever make that sound without following it up with a treat. Ill say a bit more on that later.
All you have to do is sit there with a pot of treats and make the click sound, and hand your dog a treat. When he hears the click and looks at you with a really strong ‘wheres my treat then?’ look, you know hes got the idea. (You may have to click and wait a few seconds..).

The click marks the correct behaviour, so you use it at the exact moment the dog does the thing you wanted, not before and not after.

If you were clicking for a sit, then you would click at the same time as your dogs bottom touches the ground. It doesn’t matter if he jumps up the second he hears the click, expecting his treat – that’s fine.
So, how do you get your dog to learn to work for the click. This is the harder part.

He already knows that the click means he gets a treat, what he probably doesn’t know, is that it’s his job to make you click.

There are two basic methods of starting off using the clicker to train your dog. Some dogs prefer one way, some prefer the other.

The first method is to lure your dog into a position, using the food treats or the toy.

Lure the dog into the sit with a piece of food. Hold it above his nose and then move your hand back, so that to keep his nose near the treat he has to sit. You click AS he sits and you hand him a treat. He goes ‘ooh excellent’.

You repeat this a few times and hopefully you might find he starts to sit before you lured him into it, that’s ok, that’s him going ‘ahhhhh, sitting on my bottom makes you make that noise, and that noise means I get a treat’….

If after a short session of say five minutes your dog is clearly still puzzled as to why you make the clicky sound and hand out treats, give it a rest for a bit and go back to it later. It can take some dogs a few goes to figure it out, but you do need him to suss it out for himself. That’s where clicker training helps dogs, just like with humans, a lesson learned by figuring it out for oneself is far better learned.

If he has had his ‘lightbulb’ moment, and is sitting with the clear understanding that you will click and reward him, then its time to add in the word you want to use for a cue. So as he sits, you say ‘sit’ and click him, and reward him.

Now, you have a dog who sits when you ask, and is keen to do so, but he jumps up the second you click to get his treat. How do you stop that?

Really easy – you have him wait two seconds before you click…. Then you wait three seconds….. etc until he sits for however long, until you click.


The other methods is called shaping, this is where you don’t lure at all, you wait for a dog to offer the behaviour naturally, or at least the first part of it.

Again using the sit youd just wait around until your dog sat and hopefully click at the same time as he sits, and then reward it.

Progress in the same was as for luring, but wait for the dog to offer the behaviour.

Now, some dogs are great at this, and it really does stretch their minds. Other dogs are not so great and if you use this method first they may switch off.

Bear in mind a lot of older dogs are used to being trained using methods where they are pushed and prodded into doing what the owner wants, and a surprising number of dogs actually don’t really understand what the commands their owners give them really mean. So if something doesn’t work first time, as they aren’t used to being rewarded for thinking their way round problems, they just switch off and give up.

You can always start with luring first and use shaping later on if you think your dog is ready for it.

Some dogs get too frustrated by luring – a little frustration can be a good thing and like some people, some dogs get frustrated and try out new things because of it. Other dogs, and one of mine does this, will get wound up and lose concentration, start barking or repeating previously learned behaviours instead of thinking of something new.

Either way though, the rules remain the same – click as the behaviour happens, withhold the click to improve the duration of the behaviour.


So now what if you get a behaviour you didn’t want, or the quality of the behaviour is not sufficient.

If its something you didn’t want, say you have sat down to teach your dog how to give a paw, and he tries to nibble you instead, ignore it. No click, no treat.

If the behaviour is poor, say a sit is slow and sloppy, not straight fast and neat, again, withhold the click, ignore it.
Do be aware of not expecting too much too fast – some dogs learn really quickly, some need a fair bit of repetition.
Don’t make training sessions last too long either, if you didn’t get it in five minutes another five is only going to cause frustration, leave it and go back later.
If you DID get it in only two minutes, end the lesson on the high note of success, and go back to it later.



Bigger Tricks….

This is a bit more advanced, and uses a technique called ‘back chaining’.

Good examples of back chained ‘tricks’ or behaviours are heelwork to music. Those 4 minute or longer routines, often using more than one dog doing different behaviours at the same time, are taught using back chaining.

A trick you could teach using this method would be ‘tidy up’. The aim is to have the dog pick up a selection of toys from the floor and put them into his toy box..

Sounds very impressive and when its taught correctly it looks very impressive too.

To teach this trick you first have to split it into different parts. Start with the last part of the trick, which is to drop a toy in the box.

Sit by the toy box and have a toy in your hand, a toy your dog doesn’t really want top play with. Hand your dog the toy and he is likely to take it and drop it, its boring and he doesn’t really want it. If he does want to take it away with him, think up a way of quietly encouraging him to drop it into the box, but try not to speak too much as that can get confusing.
If he drops the toy into the box, click and treat.

Repeat this a few times until its really clear that it is the toy going into the box that gets him his click and treat. Allow him to make mistakes such as dropping the toy on the floor, that’s fine everyone needs to make mistakes to learn.

Assuming he gets that right, the next stage is to have him take the toy from you and walk to the box that is now further away.

You may need to break the distance into several chunks if you have a big room – each time just set him up to succeed as best you can, and withhold the click and treat until its right.

After that, you want him to pick the toy up off the floor and put it in the box, then the next stage would be two toys (you could probably switch these two stages around).

When he has the hang of picking up a few items from the floor and putting them in the box, scatter the items around a little. Then the final stage would be to work up to toys he likes a bit more – the reward is for tidying them up, not playing with them.

Finally, he can pick up five good toys, put them in the box and you can start to add the cue word in, ‘tidy’.

Sometimes it helps if you want to teach a big long trick or routine, to write down each stage so you can focus better and not become distracted.


Few Do’s and Don’ts:

Don’t use the clicker like a remote control! It is not for getting your dogs attention, it will not change his channel, it won’t mute him. All it does is mark the correct behaviour.

Do make sure your timing is spot on.

Don’t forget to treat after each click, even if you clicked by mistake. Its much easier to correct a mistakenly rewarded behaviour, than it is to reteach your dog that click really DOES mean hes done the right thing.

Do start off easy and make things harder as you progress, keeps your dog thinking.

Don’t push your luck – if you get one great behaviour from your dog, end there and go back to it a few hours later.

Don’t confuse your dog by chopping and changing the thing you are clicking him for.
Do practice your training in a variety of places – dogs are often context specific in their learning, and may not understand a cue or command in a new environment (one reason why dogs can behave perfectly at training class but seem to ignore you out in the park!).


Do enjoy clicker training, its fun!

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Post by emmabeth » Fri Dec 21, 2007 6:49 am

Just located this amazing clip showing you just HOW effective clicker training is.

Note at the beginning of the clip, the owner goes on about how she has tried alpha dominance techniques, about how she was told to let the dog know who was boss 'take the dog down' etc etc.... this was a PUPPY folks, a puppy...

And then she tried clicker training..... and you can see the results!

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=bgEwiH8CeUE

Owdb1tch
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Post by Owdb1tch » Fri Dec 21, 2007 7:45 am

BRILLIANT!

animalgirlxx90
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Post by animalgirlxx90 » Fri Mar 14, 2008 9:32 am

as soon as i get my clicker out my dog trys to lay down and sit and stuff before i can tell her to do anything.am i doing something wrong?

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Post by emmabeth » Fri Mar 14, 2008 8:45 pm

Not really.... your dog knows you want something from him and he tries the things he knows already, see if they work.

Keep at it, go steady and be consistant, work on one trick at a time and dont give ina nd reward something else instead!

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Post by animalgirlxx90 » Sat Mar 15, 2008 9:34 am

my dog is such a piggy. i've been trying to teach her to shake and all she does to stare at the treat in my hand and doesn't try to pay attention.
anyone got any suggestions?

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Post by Ocelot0411 » Sat Mar 15, 2008 2:54 pm

Yup, show her the treat in your hand so she knows its there then close your hand so she can't see it. In her eagerness to get at it she will doubtless start to 'paw' at your hand. The minute her paw hits your hand 'click' and open it so she can take it and ta dah!!!

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Clicker training

Post by ninasowner » Wed Jul 16, 2008 12:18 pm

I tried to get my dog to sit using the clicker and treat method, but she does not understand. She just stands in front of me and then walks away after a while. How else can I teach her to sit on command? (by the way, my dog is hearing impaired...she can hear the clicker but not my voice).

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Post by emmabeth » Wed Jul 16, 2008 5:49 pm

Lure her with the treat in your hand, start with it right on her nose and then bring it back over her head so she ahs to look up to follow it - thats not a comfy position so she should sit, and as her bum touches the floor, you click.

The other way is to have the clicker and treats on you at all times and when she naturally sits anyway, capture that with a click and treat.

Do it often enough and she will suss that its sitting that gets the click and then the reward and you can start to pair it with a cue 'sit'..

ninasowner
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Post by ninasowner » Sat Jul 19, 2008 10:44 pm

emmabeth wrote:Lure her with the treat in your hand, start with it right on her nose and then bring it back over her head so she ahs to look up to follow it - thats not a comfy position so she should sit, and as her bum touches the floor, you click.

The other way is to have the clicker and treats on you at all times and when she naturally sits anyway, capture that with a click and treat.

Do it often enough and she will suss that its sitting that gets the click and then the reward and you can start to pair it with a cue 'sit'..
Thanks for the advice. I tried these two methods and Nina jumps up to get the treat instead of sitting. She does not sit much at all, she either stands or lies down (I don't know if this is normal for her breed: she's a Cocker Spaniel).

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Post by emmabeth » Sun Jul 20, 2008 2:49 pm

Hmm probably your hand is too high, hold the treat so she can sniff it but not get it and have it really close to her head so theres no point in jumping.

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Nettle
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Post by Nettle » Sun Jul 20, 2008 3:08 pm

She's old: maybe she can't sit comfortably.

ninasowner
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Post by ninasowner » Sun Jul 20, 2008 5:17 pm

Nina is a very nervous dog, she looks worried all the time, sort of crouched. She does not like to play, she seems to have severe separation anxiety. She follows me from room to room and even wakes up every few minutes to sniff the air and to make sure I haven't left the house.

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Mattie
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Post by Mattie » Mon Jul 21, 2008 4:05 am

Ninasowner, you really need a thread on its own, can you start one please and we can answer your questions properly, this thread is just about clicker training and Nina seems to need more. Image
[url=http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v312/Nethertumbleweed/PIXIE.jpg][img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v312/Nethertumbleweed/th_PIXIE.jpg[/img][/url]

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Nina's thread

Post by ninasowner » Mon Jul 21, 2008 8:31 am

Hi Mattie:

I posted another thread last week called "Hearing Impaired dog has separation anxiety" under "methods". Several people have told me she may have senility.

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