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What a difference a clicker makes!!


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Colt is almost 10 mos. and has upped his game as far as speed, reactivity, enthusiasm and unfortunately barking at strangers returned after being non existent for a couple of months. Humbug! I now know why most BC's end up in rescues at this age. Here is my lovely obedient dog blowing me off and getting roused about things he never did before. Used to be I could put him on a sit stay for a biker on the trail. Not so anymore. I do have the magic bullet though, a ball. If I have a ball and use it to reward or distract he will do anything I ask, but I don't want to go through life with a chuck-it.

 

So...for the past week I have been working through the exercises in the book "Control Unleashed". I was not using a clicker and I was having success,but then I read a review on this board of Karen Pryor's new book "Reaching The Animal Mind", went to her site to order and read up on why she thinks clicking is better than marking with a word. I thought hell, why not just buy a clicker and see. Holy crap! Colt loved it! We got so much more accomplished and had a blast doing it.

 

I have actually disliked clicker training as I was introduced to it years ago by someone who clicker trained her horse and he became the world's biggest mooch to the point of being dangerous. Not to mention he would only work for treats. Hell, I'll admit I have had negative feelings about training with treats. Never did it in the past with any dog.

 

Well after reading Control Unleashed and liking the fact that I wasn't creating a robot who responds to cues, but a dog who was actually figuring things out and rewarding that I took that next step and bought the clicker. I am so glad I did.

 

Comments? Experiences? Cautions? Tips?

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I double agree! :rolleyes:

I trained for years without a clicker. Had some experience and messed around with it but I concentrated on clicker training my sensitive, fearful BC and he responds extremely well to clicker training. I went back and re-trained some obedience exercises to my 6 year old aussie. These were issues that *no-one* could really help me fix. Nothing got through to her and made her understand but clicker training!

 

The Karen Pryor book is extremely interesting.

 

Have fun.

Michele &

Gypsy &

Chase

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Comments? Experiences? Cautions? Tips?

 

 

I like it a lot and use it for training new behaviors (mostly for puppies).

 

Be very aware of the "big picture" of what the dog is doing when you click; it's pretty easy to miss that you are marking unwanted behavior if it's occuring at about the same time as the behavior you want.

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Congratulations!

I was also skeptical of the clicker. I did train with treats, but thought, "how could a click make any difference?" I don't even remember how I got the first one...I think I picked up a little book on trick training and it came with a clicker. I was teaching Daisy 2 new tricks a day she loved it so much! She gets really excited when I grab my clicker now. It either means we are going to learn a new "game" or we're going to school. That's the best part...everything she learns is a game, even if it is working on her reactivity to other dogs! I've never seen her "get" things so quickly!

Kelliwic is right though, it is very easy to click for things you don't want. But that gets better with practice!

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I like it a lot and use it for training new behaviors (mostly for puppies).

 

Be very aware of the "big picture" of what the dog is doing when you click; it's pretty easy to miss that you are marking unwanted behavior if it's occuring at about the same time as the behavior you want.

 

Could you say a little more about this?

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Could you say a little more about this?

 

Here is one personal example. My first Border Collie would "smile" at my by showing all her front teeth. I wanted to get that on command, so I started clicking it. There's really no way to lure a dog into doing that behavior, so I had to really get her worked up in order to produce the behavior spontaneously, so that I could click for the behavior when it did occur. What I ignored as unimportant at first, was that she was also doing a little dance with her front paws just before and while doing the "smile." So I was unintentionally also clicking or marking the little dance. I never did get the two behaviors separated.

 

I was at a Susan Garrett clicker training seminar years back. She gave us an example of this when she was trying to train her Border Collie to bark on command (I think). Her dog (Stoni?) also did a few excited backward dance steps as she barked. So now Susan had a dog that barked on command (so she didn't bark when Susan wanted her quiet), but the barking also came with the backwards thing. I believe Susan was able to take the backwards shuffling and put a separate command to that ("moonwalk"). I might not have all the details exactly right as it was over 10 years ago, but that's the general gist of it.

 

If the dog is doing anything else just before or in addition to the behavior you WANT, you may be reinforcing that additional behavior as well, because it becomes part of the "ritual" for the dog.

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If the dog is doing anything else just before or in addition to the behavior you WANT, you may be reinforcing that additional behavior as well, because it becomes part of the "ritual" for the dog.

 

I do quite a lot of clicker training and over time I've gotten to the point where I don't worry about this very much. I've accidentally trained behavior chains, but I've found that "retraining" a behavior with the clicker is a very forgiving process.

 

I did something like what Susan described. When I first started Speedy's mat work, I used free shaping to try to get him to think through the process. He did develop a pattern behavior chain, which I didn't really discover until the day we were in our living room and I cued him to his mat. He proceeded to sit, lift a paw, throw his head back to the side, grin, and the lie down on the mat.

 

Instead of trying to separate out the default down on mat, which was what I wanted with the mat, I started from scratch, this time using lures and clicks to be a little clearer. I also trained this to a new cue. (From Speedy's perspective - more training enjoyment!)

 

So, now he can do both. He can do his little dance before lying down (with one cue) or he can simply down on mat (with another cue). But if I want that behavior chain for something, I can get it. I'd love that little head flip for Freestyle, so maybe someday I'll do that. And he does think through his mat work! So, we got there.

 

Maybe it's because of Freestyle, but I think of things that I train accidentally as extra "pieces" that I can fit into my dog's training at a later time if I want them. If I want something different right now, I just make a plan to get that and go for it.

 

For a beginner, my advice is to just have fun with the clicker and get some experience. You'll understand a lot more about how it works as you use it. Clicker mistakes are extremely fix-able, so don't be afraid to make them. In fact, learning to "fix" clicker mistakes just makes you a better clicker trainer, and your dog a more versatile training partner!!

 

At least that's how I see it!

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Thx for the clarification folks. That is what I thought. Wanted to be sure. I will keep my eye out. I have the feeling I am not clicking as much as I could. I am looking for him to be pretty specific, though I reward all his tries that I see in the right direction.

 

As I work through the book I am finding things that seem very much like things that I have already trained Colt to do with lures, like Mat, (go to place) for instance. I showed my daughter and husband last night and flew around Colt on his mat, running out the room and back, threw his frisbee etc. and he didn't budge. My DD and DH asked how that was different from a stay which of course I never asked for. I simply said Mat. I didn't know quite how to explain the difference. Though it all has a different feel to it than luring. Would I be correct in saying that Colt has had to go through a thought process as I shaped behavior and therefore this is set in his bones a little deeper? He is making a choice instead of simply obeying me, for lack of better words?

 

Or am I reading way too much into this?

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My DD and DH asked how that was different from a stay which of course I never asked for. I simply said Mat. I didn't know quite how to explain the difference.

 

Do you mean the CU mat?

 

If so, the difference is that the mat, and lying on the mat become a conditioned relaxation point, and a conditioned reinforcer, for the dog.

 

This is one of the toughest things for people to understand. A lot of my students just want to teach the dog to down-stay on the mat, but it is, as you say, different.

 

Yesterday a good friend of mine was using the mat during weave pole training. She was using it for two reasons. One was as part of the dog's reward for doing the weaves, and the other was to focus him because he tends to disconnect after taking a piece of equipment.

 

The look on his face as he came out of the weaves and ran to the mat was very telling. He wanted that mat BADLY. When he crashed down on it, that act itself was as rewarding to him as the treat he got afterward. And once on the mat, he was focused and ready to continue with what she wanted him to do.

 

You just don't get that kind of response with a down-stay. That's not to say a down-stay isn't necessary or important - of course it is!! But it serves a very different function.

 

 

Though it all has a different feel to it than luring. Would I be correct in saying that Colt has had to go through a thought process as I shaped behavior and therefore this is set in his bones a little deeper?

 

Well, it's a different thought process. Dogs think when they learn through lures, but it's a different way of thinking. Think of the difference between learning something new when you have a set of instructions and learning through figuring it out completely for yourself. Both skills are useful and good and both serve a different purpose. There are times when it is worth taking the time and effort to figure something out for yourself. But there are also times when doing that would be highly impractical.

 

To me that's the biggest difference between a lure and shaping. I shape certain behaviors like backing up, Doggie Zen, targeting, and interaction with things that I will use to train like boards and dowel rods, etc. I use lure/click for things that I want the dog to get a "feel" for like twirls and leg weaves.

 

 

He is making a choice instead of simply obeying me, for lack of better words?

 

Or you might say he's learning through solving a puzzle vs. simply being told what is expected.

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Alright... in light of all these discussions about clicker training I gave in and stopped at Petsmart today and bought one for $1.49 and a roll of meat for treats (PetBotanics).

 

So I come home and was ready to "charge the clicker". My husband kept asking me what do I mean by chargining it, thinking it needs to be plugged in :D I click, treat, click, treat, then I notice Ouzo seemed a bit put off by it - strange, since it's rare that sometimes fazes him (maybe bees, but that's understandable). Therefore I place the clicker on the floor, and throw a treat next to it. So what does my dog do? Grabs the clicker and runs with it :D I had to go chase him and retrieve it from his mouth :D :D :D Not a very encouraging begining, I'd say :D

 

I then realized what made him react this way. Chris keeps on his desk a squeek box from one of the toys he destroyed long time ago - it makes a boingggg! sound when pressed and it's in a little white box. Which looks very much like the clicker. And since we've been tormenting Ouzo with the "boinggg!" box for a couple of years now, he thought this is his time to grab the evil box and squeek it himself :D

 

I will keep you posted on our clicker training - if he doesn't eat it before that :rolleyes:

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Do you mean the CU mat?

 

If so, the difference is that the mat, and lying on the mat become a conditioned relaxation point, and a conditioned reinforcer, for the dog.

 

Snip

 

Well, it's a different thought process. Dogs think when they learn through lures, but it's a different way of thinking. Think of the difference between learning something new when you have a set of instructions and learning through figuring it out completely for yourself. Both skills are useful and good and both serve a different purpose. There are times when it is worth taking the time and effort to figure something out for yourself. But there are also times when doing that would be highly impractical.

 

To me that's the biggest difference between a lure and shaping. I shape certain behaviors like backing up, Doggie Zen, targeting, and interaction with things that I will use to train like boards and dowel rods, etc. I use lure/click for things that I want the dog to get a "feel" for like twirls and leg weaves.

Or you might say he's learning through solving a puzzle vs. simply being told what is expected.

 

This all makes sense to me. Makes sense about the need to lure at points too.

Thx.

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Chris keeps on his desk a squeek box from one of the toys he destroyed long time ago - it makes a boingggg! sound when pressed and it's in a little white box. Which looks very much like the clicker. And since we've been tormenting Ouzo with the "boinggg!" box for a couple of years now, he thought this is his time to grab the evil box and squeek it himself :D

 

I will keep you posted on our clicker training - if he doesn't eat it before that :rolleyes:

 

:D

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So, another question.

 

Once I get Colt good with the stranger danger again which is the reason I went to Control Unleashed in the first place as everything else is just great, can I phase out the clicker and the treats the way I did before when I used treats as a counter conditioner to the approaching people on the trails. Once he seemed over it, I stopped the treating and he was fine for a couple of months. It has returned in adolescence as I was warned it might.

 

Of course if I decide to do agility or ever need to train any thing else I would go to a clicker in a flash.

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So, another question.

 

Once I get Colt good with the stranger danger again which is the reason I went to Control Unleashed in the first place as everything else is just great, can I phase out the clicker and the treats the way I did before when I used treats as a counter conditioner to the approaching people on the trails. Once he seemed over it, I stopped the treating and he was fine for a couple of months. It has returned in adolescence as I was warned it might.

 

Of course if I decide to do agility or ever need to train any thing else I would go to a clicker in a flash.

 

At some point you should be able to. You might want to go back to it periodically as a refresher, but once the dog gets to the point where the trigger (strangers) does not bother him anymore, you should be able to phase it out in many situations.

 

I used Look at That (from Control Unleashed) with a clicker with Dean to work him through motion sensitivity. I never need to play it with him now in that situation. He can watch dogs do Agility with interest and it doesn't stimulate him or anything. I still use the game with him for other things, though.

 

There are dogs who need more help for a longer time - it just depends on the dog.

 

But it's not like you'll have to carry a clicker everywhere for the rest of your life or something.

 

My one caution is not to try to get to that point too fast. You'll be able to tell when your dog is ready. Until that time, doing what makes the dog most comfortable will get you better results in the long run.

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snip

 

There are dogs who need more help for a longer time - it just depends on the dog.

 

But it's not like you'll have to carry a clicker everywhere for the rest of your life or something.

 

My one caution is not to try to get to that point too fast. You'll be able to tell when your dog is ready. Until that time, doing what makes the dog most comfortable will get you better results in the long run.

 

This sounds good. Thx Root Beer.

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