[nagdu] Starting with clicker training?

Tami Jarvis tami at poodlemutt.com
Tue Jul 8 22:31:19 UTC 2014


Well, I'd been training by applying general principles, at least, of 
operant conditioning for years before the clicker came along. So adding 
in the clicker when I got to it was a question of timing and then being 
amazed I had ever survived without the thing. /lol/ I had to practice 
the timing a bit, because it really is that much faster than verbal praise.

So it's best to start with the easy stuff -- touch, sit, down -- for 
both you and your dog just to get the timing down. Teaching touch comes 
with training your dog that the clicker marks success, with reward 
(treat or whatever) to follow. For touch, I start by holding the treat 
in my palm, then click when the dog touches the treat until the dog gets 
the connection. Then I partially obscure the treat with my thumb and 
repeat until the dog gets it. Then I fold my ring finger and pinky over 
the treat in my palm, holding my first two fingers out straight to begin 
teaching the touch comman, again clicking and releasing the treat. How 
many repetitions it requires for the dog to make the connection between 
the click and the treat varies by dog, but it doesn't take much.

Touch is also the behavior most VI clicker trainers I know use in place 
of the eye contact and visual feedback sighted clicker-trainers talk 
about. In other words, you know you have your dog's attention when the 
nose touches your fingers.

Sit seems to be the next easiest one for both partners, to cement the 
connection between the click and the reward while you firm up your 
timing. Of course, Jenny already knows how to sit, but it will be fun 
and start getting you both thinking clicker and positive reinforcement.

For more complex behaviors, it's really a matter of breaking them down 
into smaller increments that you can teach individually and chain 
together into the end behavior. So for find, touch is the starting place 
for me. The dog touches my two fingers, so I can put those fingers on 
the item I want the dog to find and click, then slowly take the finger 
target out of the loop by clicking when the dog touches the object. Some 
trainers recommend a certain number of repetitions before naming the 
object with the find command, but I tend to just include the verbal 
command from the start. Mitzi poodle is super verbal, so I swear I can 
mention things in passing and she will find them months later. My 
husband's pet mutt learns the hand signal long before she clues in there 
is a word that means something. She's quicker the older she gets, but I 
still have to remind myself she's not Mitzi when teaching her something 
new. /lol/ Anyway, whether you add the verbal cue sooner or later to go 
with the hand cue depends on the dog, I guess.

Clicker training can sound insanely complicated at first, but once you 
wrap your mind around the concept that you are communicating what you 
want the dog to do and rewarding the dog for doing what you want it to 
do, it becomes very, very simple. Also, the more you work with your dog, 
the more the dog will offer up new behaviors, so you can reward the one 
that works and there you go.

Dealing with rebellion (as I know well!) can be more complicated, 
especially when you're learning to think of solutions in terms of 
positive reinforcement. But that, too, is a learning process and coming 
up with the solution that works does feel good. /smile/


On 07/08/2014 12:09 PM, Daryl Marie via nagdu wrote:
> hi!
> As I am moving away from the correction/choke collar, I am considering using clicker training in my partnership with Jenny.  Has anyone started clicker training on their own? Any pointers? Dos and Don'ts?  I know Raven posted www.clickertraining.com as a great resource, but it feel really really overwhelming!
> Daryl and Jenny
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