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Pet People

Friday, September 07, 2007

Clicker Training By Adrienne

Since there are a few of us that have new family members I thought it would be good to discuss training. We are choosing to attend Puppy Kindergarten classes at a local facility. They practice “Clicker” training. This style of training is becoming more well known and accepted as a better practice with pets. Here's the basics of how it works and how to get started.

Dogs learn by association, positive and negative. When you walk towards the fridge they usually follow you and get excited that something might be for them, as well as shying away from you when you get out the nail clippers if they have had a bad experience with them. The other way they learn is visually, such as using a treat or our finger to teach them the “down” command. The basic principal of clicker training is to capture a behavior you want. A clicker is a quicker response than a voice response. You “click” when they have done something that you want, like sit. The clicker is a marker or communication tool. It is a unique sound that gets the dogs attention. Once they have sat, you click and give them a treat.( A SMALL treat Brett. Something the size of a pencil eraser, no matter the size of the dog and only one at a time.)LOL! All you want is for them to get a taste and be happy about the response they are getting. When your dog is conditioned to the clicker, they will understand that it means two things. (1) Whatever they are doing at the time the click is heard is a desirable (and therefore rewardable) behavior and (2) a reward is coming. The reward is the primary reinforcer. The reward can be anything the dog finds desirable. Use a combination of food and toys, food for stationary exercises and a toy for moving exercises.

Until your dog becomes “clicker wise” you can start a training session by “loading” the clicker. Click 5-10 times and follow each click with a desirable treat. Food should never be in sight or in the handler's hand since you do not want the dog to become focused on the food. This would apply to toys as well. You should only click once. If your dog does something exceptionally well or has a significant breakthrough during a training session, use multiple rewards not multiple clicks, like a jackpot. The rule is, “if you click you MUST reward the dog”. If you do not reward after each click, then the power of the clicker is diluted. Also remember not to give away that they are going to get a reward by putting your hand in your pocket or treat pouch as you are clicking. This should be done after you have clicked. The click “ends” the behavior. What you dog does after the click or while waiting for the reward does not matter. Remember not to add extra body language before or as you click. Your dog should be listening for the click, not watching for a signal from you.

Once you have the basics down you can start to “shape behaviors”, teaching them something new that you want them to do. With clicker training the dog has to take responsibility for learning. You do not physically manipulate the dog to teach the desired behavior. Instead, you wait for the dog to offer increments of the behavior and use the clicker to communicate to the dog that such behavior is the desired response. If the dog is not offering the desired behavior, you can begin by “luring” them using a piece of food. Try not to do this too often, the dog may become dependent on the lure. As the dog progresses, you raise your standards so more is expected for them to get the click. You then start to switch from the continuous reinforcement to a variable reinforcement (clicking randomly, usually after 2,3 or more offerings of the correct behavior). When your dog does not know when they are going to receive a click they will put forth more effort.

There are 4 main parts of the the training called “Operant Conditioning”.
Positive Reinforcement: Adding something the dog values (food, toys/play, petting, praise) to increase the probability of the behavior happening.
Negative Reinforcement: Removing something from the dog to increase the probability of the behavior happening.
Positive Punishment: Adding something the dog dislikes (collar jerk) to inhibit behavior.
Negative Punishment: Removing something the dog wants (such as your attention or the opportunity to earn rewards) to decreased the behavior from happening. This is a good method to refocus an inattentive dog.

Always remember to make sure that your dog is physically capable of the behavior you want. Keep your training sessions short so that you keep there attention. Use rewards your dog likes not what you want him to like. Split behavior into small parts for the most success. If something you are trying is not working, don't blame the dog, break the behavior down so they can understand it and be successful. Up the criteria when your dog is 85% successful at there current level. And most importantly, if your dog is confused, frustrated or has made repeated attempts that are “wrong” have them do something they already know and reward them. If they keep trying, are getting it wrong and not getting rewarded, they will stop trying.

Above is a picture of Stella and her daddy Janus before we left CO. Janus had to be put down last December for bone cancer. Shiloh, my mom's Shepard mix who went to training , but still thinks the rules don't apply to her and Cody, my mom's golden who was trained using the clicker method and now competes in agility trails.

posted by Adrienne at 9/07/2007 10:53:00 PM


Blogger Skeeter said...

Great info about "clickers" I hear them often when in PetsMart. It seems to be a positive way of training.

All three pictures you posted are great! I especially like the one of Shiloh with his head in the bag of food! And you were teasing Brett for over treating... LOL....

Saturday, September 08, 2007 9:20:00 AM  
Blogger dragon said...

Adrienne, that is a very interesting article. My older dog is totally set in ways, and is not up to learning anything. He is, how would you say it, in his golden years. My younger, and a lot more energetic dog may get on the clicker program.

Saturday, September 08, 2007 12:36:00 PM  
Blogger Pam said...

Adrienne, I'm interested on how I can train Fly Boy with the "Clicker" program so let me know if it works on "The Foreman".
I remember seeing a old movie from the "60's" with Sandra Dee and Bobby Darren where she trained him with a manual for training a puppy and it worked so let me know.

Saturday, September 08, 2007 8:33:00 PM  
Blogger Skeeter said...

The Saint and I just saw the sweetest thing on the news tonight...
A mommy Chihuahua was nursing some abandon baby squirrels!
So heartwarming to see such a thing…

On a sad note, a police officer with 17 years experience forgot his K-9 dog in the car and it died from the heat! How horrible for the dog. Don’t know what will happen to the officer. I know it was an accident but he should have not been so careless....

Also the sheriffs office is now offering a $2,500 reward for info to dog fighting rings here!

Saturday, September 08, 2007 9:44:00 PM  
Blogger Sandy said...

I had to laugh Adrienne, when you mentioned nail clippers. Scooter hates them, but not the dog nail clippers! He hates hearing HUMAN nail clippers. I don't even cut their nails--they don't grow long enough between grooming visits (Zoe) and vet visits and I guess they wear them down on their own too.

The minute he hears the "clip" he wants out of whatever room he's in. Now he even gets ready to go when he hears the drawer open where the clippers are!

I guess clicker training is just like the old Pavolv's dog experiment with the bell. I think that kind of training is great for young puppies and also older dogs that aren't TOO bad.

I took Scooter to a private trainer who didn't use any rewards whatsover, other than affection and a "good boy." This worked for Scooter who needed a firmer hand because he is bossy and too smart for his own good!

Love the pictures. I did a little agility with Zoe who would do what she was supposed to, but was very slow about it. If I had Scooter at the time, he would have been a perfect dog for agility. Zoe wasn't food motivated either.

Sunday, September 09, 2007 7:25:00 AM  
Blogger Adrienne said...

Skeeter, Doesn't killing that dog fall under killing another police officer? I know that when criminals shoot a K9 they can be charged with attempted murder of an officer. Although if your Sheriffs office is like so many out there, the deputy will get the minimum charge if any. I hate the "good ol' boy" way. It infuriates me.

Monday, September 10, 2007 6:11:00 PM  
Blogger Skeeter said...

I was kind of thinking that myself Adrienne. It did not happen here locally but somewhere in the State of GA I think... Not sure we will even see a follow up story on this or not.

Also a child was left in a car sleeping as the mother which is a school teacher forgot her sleeping child in the back seat and it died also. I am not sure what will come of that one either since she was a teacher, she may get off. I am not sure how to react to this one as some people get harsher punishments for that ops in life. I know that loosing the child is a great loss and she will have to life with that forever but is that punishment enough? I just dont know how I feel about this one because I am sure that woman loved that child but she should have been more attentive to that child and not caught up in her own little world. The child and the dog both were counting on someone else for their well being and they were both let down in the worse way possible for the child and dog…

Monday, September 10, 2007 8:52:00 PM  

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Pet People

Sandy Britt, an animal welfare advocate and volunteer with Clarksville rescue organizations, takes care of three dogs: Zoe, Scooter and Peanut; two cats: Catfish and Tarzan; and one husband, Glen, and according to him she takes care of them in that order.

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