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CMP
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Okay. I have to hand it to you clicker trainers. Hats off. I mean this sincerely. It's a skill unto itself.

 

So, the puppy is on crate rest so I thought I would try and work with a clicker. Getting started was easy - click, treat, click, treat.

 

The dog thought it strange and spent a lot of time looking deeply into my eyes - searching for meaning, one presumes. I must have presented as a void to her, sadly.

 

We do not treat train so it was a novel experience on a few fronts.

 

I thought I would start with something simple like a focus - a look at me.

 

"Molly!"

 

She looks at me and I smile and click and give her a treat.

 

She looks confused. Like I am trying to trick her.

 

And again.

 

Okay, I think, this might be okay.

 

But then I start talking to her (I talk to dogs a lot) in between calling her name, clicking and giving her treats. *I* lose focus and forget the clicker and just smile and say, "You're a good kid." She looks confused again.

 

"Oh yeah," I say and click and give her a treat but now she has no idea why I am giving her a treat and it becomes even more suspicious to her and she cocks her head at me.

 

Then I didn't have enough hands because my habit, and it's an old and dear one, is to pat them on the head or give them a little ear scratch instead of ... you know, clicking and treating. So I was petting her with the treat but she knew I had it so was reaching upward to get it, which is sort of a no-no, as I was petting her and I instinctively said, "no no" and then clicked (for some bizarre reason which I am blaming on a hand eye brain coordination failure) and she sighed, dropped into a down and refused to look at me at all - even when I got silly. She just pretended she was deaf.

 

We played "duelling squeak toys" instead.

 

I don't think I could do clicker training. I can barely work with a whistle. I am also one of those people who tends to reach into the ground and de-root something instead of going to find a shovel or a trowel. Maybe I am just tool challenged.

 

Anyway. Hats off to you all. It's a skill.

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Ha! Sounds like my struggles! I can't count the number of times where I click even though it is the *exact* opposite thing I meant to do. But I honor my click, and here comes a treat, even if I just encouraged the wrong behavior....

 

I'm more reliable with the 'Yes!" method, I can't be held accountable for both my mouth and my hand! :)

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The first skill you need to learn is to keep your mouth shut and let the dog figure it out for itself. No point in using a clicker that is supposed to mark clearly what you want if you are going to obscure it with white noise.

 

Most people benefit from a practical demonstration by someone who knows what they are doing.

 

I lack coordination and observation skills but clicker training has improved both. It isn't the only way to train of course but it does need to be given an fair trial.

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The first skill you need to learn is to keep your mouth shut and let the dog figure it out for itself. No point in using a clicker that is supposed to mark clearly what you want if you are going to obscure it with white noise.

Hah, yeah, you're right.

 

But I think the white noise is important to how I do things, actually. Voice modulation and all. Also, I think my dogs think something is wrong when I don't talk to them - because the only time I don't is when I am mad at them.

 

I've seen some trainers/dogs do some pretty impressive things which I know were learned with a clicker, so I know it works for some people - I just think I am not likely one of them :/

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I agree with CMP, clicker training works great for some people....I'm not one of them because I found it was just one more thing to think about and my co- ordination was not good enough,....may also explain why I have 2 left feet when it comes to dancing.

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But the skills you can improve by not giving up at the first hurdle because you don't find it easy are transferable. We can all improve on things we don't think we are good at.

Agreed.

 

That said, I think I would find it bothersome to have to use a device. I would lose it, forget it and ultimately I think I would confuse myself as it is somewhat contrary to my basic method - and I am the proverbial old dog who CAN learn new tricks but resists the hell out of them.

 

I have almost no requirement for my dogs to do any sort of tricks beyond a recall, sit, stay, down, stand and easy (slow). When we get to SaR specific training, it's a lot like herding - one is really just helping the dog/handler find a common language to deal with the instincts/skills already present.

 

I guess it's a lot like anything else - my method would probably make some folks NUTS and a clicker would probably make me nuts. Like any other training method that works, I find the dynamics interesting in an academic way - but doubt very much I have the right personality for such a method.

 

You'll laugh, but I got hitch in my throat when I processed the notion of not talking so much to my dogs as part of training them. It felt weird :/

 

But yeah, I can see how the co-ordination and timing skills would be useful in other areas.

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I've found that my dogs learn in spite of white noise, not because of it. I mean, I absolutely talk to/have conversations with them throughout the day and they pick up on and respond to that of course. But, when I actually teach something, I try to be concise and keep white noise words to a minimum so my dog doesn't have to extrapolate what I actually want. I found with one of my dogs that she can focus and learn for much longer with the clicker since I'm not adding any extraneous information for her to sift through. YMMV of course.

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Oh yes - makes sense.

 

I don't use a lot of white noise WHILE training a specific thing. But I also vary my "atta girl"s and sometimes add extraneous commentary.

 

I suppose the dogs adjust as well - to the individual style of the trainer.

 

I'm not the world's best trainer, by a billion miles, but it seems to work out in the end for us. I couldn't begin to speculate as to how they see the white noise but I do know that after a while they seem to like it.

 

I think I do what you do, upon reflection. For the actual training, I am concise (or more concise) as it is important that the word be clear and clearly tied to the action and any extra sounds would be confusing. I can see WHY and HOW a clicker would work and I get it totally. I just don't think it would work for me.

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It's like any mechanical skill. Until it becomes familiar and habitual, it is going to seem burdensome.

 

When I first learned to type properly, it drove me nuts!! I really wanted to go back to just pecking away with two fingers. It took several weeks of daily classes (I took typing in High School), and when I became adept at the skill and could type over 60 words per minute, I never looked back!! Now I find it burdensome to use one finger to type! Especially since most of the letters are worn off of the keys on my keyboard from typing so much!!

 

Clicker skills are similar. It does become familiar with practice. I don't even think about having a clicker in my hand anymore. It's second nature. I have no trouble juggling clicker, treats, and a target stick while training a dog. But I've been at this for almost 13 years.

 

As far as your dog seeming confused at first, there is a learning curve there, as well. When I introduce a clicker to a dog, I hold both the clicker and treats behind my back. I don't say anything and it does not matter what the dog is doing (sniffing, looking around, sitting, standing, moving, whatever). Obviously, we work in a contained room so the dog doesn't wander away. I click (with the clicker behind my back so the dog hears the click and does not see the device) and then reach out with a treat. I do that over several sessions, without clicking a single distinct behavior, until it is clear that the dog is looking for a treat when he or she hears the click.

 

At that point I usually stop hiding the clicker.

 

I am not a silent clicker trainer. I will use verbal bridges and praise, in addition to the click. But when I am introducing the clicker, I am silent so the dog can learn to make the exact association that I am teaching. Once the dog has that knowledge, I go back to using normal verbiage.

 

It can also be helpful, when working with a dog who does not understand the purpose of the click (once the initial association with click-treat has been made) to do some very, very simple exercises to teach the cause-effect element. Eye contact can work for some dogs, but I rarely start with eye contact. Hand targeting (super simple) or a doggie zen game or voluntary attention off a tossed treat are excellent exercises to start with. The idea is for the dog to understand that his or her offered choice made the click happen (offered = you didn't ask for it). Once the dog understands that, more complex concepts become much simpler. But that understanding typically comes over multiple sessions (after the initial click-treat association has been made), not in one shot.

 

As far as whether or not it would work for you - I think you sell yourself short. If you had a serious need or a desire to learn, I'd be willing to wager you could. It takes time (think over a month of training sessions, not one session), practice, and some trial and error to get the initial skill. Once you have it, you have it for life.

I'm not saying you must or should, just that you haven't worked with it enough to really have an idea of what level of skill you would develop with further work, nor how straightforward it might become.

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Can't add much to what Root Beer and mum24dog have said.

 

Give yourself a chance.

 

IMHO, one can never have too many tools in the toolbox. i.e. I want to have multiple options/techniques for training behaviors and skills. If one doesn't seem to be working, I can transfer to another technique that a particular dog may understand better.

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Oh ho ho, you'll make a convert out of me yet, people :/

 

I do so love it when people have really good positive reasoning behind something I am resistant to - it kicks me in the mental ass with a "oh get over yourself" subtext.

 

Or else ... you know ... everything ends up being a self fulfilling prophecy, right?

 

Thanks for all the response. :)

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Oh, another thing that could be helpful is to look for good youtube videos of people teaching basic clicker skills.

 

Sometimes you can pick up on more by watching someone do something like this well.

 

I actually abandoned clicker training for a short time after I was first introduced to it until I saw a live demo at a camp. After I saw clicker work in action, I never looked back. It was something I absolutely had to do!

 

Since your dog needs some confinement right now, you might find this something that would help with mental stimulation.

 

You could:

 

Get 3 little flower pots. Put a treat under one. Click when your dog puts his or her nose on the correct pot and then lift it to let her have the treat.

 

Get a large ball (too big to fit in your dog's mouth). Put the ball on a dog bowl and have a treat in the dog bowl. Click when your dog moves the ball to get the treat in the dish. The dish can quickly be removed and you can click/treat offered pushes on the ball. (Bandit will already push the ball across the floor when we play this!). This is a nice game for a dog who can't run because they can walk and push the ball around. (If a ball gets your dog too amped up, you could use a closed cardboard box for this, too, and have your dog learn to push the box around).

 

Get a fleece tug and a short plastic mug or some other container you can tie the tug to. Put treats in the container. Push the container (with the tug tied to it) under a piece of furniture, just slightly. Let your dog figure out that she must pull the tug to get the container out. Click when your dog pulls, and she gets the treat in the container. Over time, push the container further back. This can be put on cue to pull and the dog can learn to pull doors closed (if a rope is attached) or pull light things around.

 

You don't have to do traditional "shaping" with a clicker if you don't want to. But there is a ton you could do with it to help ease boredom in a low-key way, and you would end up with some very fun little skills.

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I have been trying the clicker, I have one with a loop that can go around my neck, I tend to wrap it around my wrist, but it is so darn hard for me to hold a leash, have treats and use that darn thing, I keep dropping it, or not clicking fast enough to let her know what she has done was a good thing or a bad thing, so with that said I have been using the clicker when I call her name, or whenever I am trying to get her attention. I tell her something once, then I use sounds to get her attention, with that in mind the clicker does seem to be helping me to get her attention.

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What Kristine (Root Beer) says!

 

If you don't feel coordinated enough with the clicker, you could always use a mouth click, or, as others have said, an upbeat "Yes!".

 

You can use a bait bag so you don't have to be holding treats in your hand, which also can eliminate the dog's attention on your hand looking for the treat.

 

Most importantly, though, is practice to gain the coordination and muscle memory. It's like any other skill that way. ;)

 

ETA: I also find having a clicker on a flexible coiled wrist band helps me with the coordination thing.

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Here is one thing I did with a clicker. Totally new set up, Kenzi did have the concept of picking an object up but the rest was new.

 

 

I don't train everything like this, but it's great for a mental workout when needed. It makes me think and focus, too, and it's another communication system that I have with my dog. Obviously you don't *need* it and many people train fine without it (Chaser, the dog that knows 1000 words comes to mind). But it is a simple, concise foundation "language" - which I think is most important however you choose to train. And once you have the concept, it can be modified. I often use the word yes and will vary my voice inflection - happy excited when needed or calm soothing when needed. Both ways communicate to an excited or nervous dog depending on the situation. And when they're a little wound up to be thinking straight then something really simple can help them focus and bring them back down to earth a bit.

 

For instance, I took Kolt to the vet and he was over the top excited. I held him and calmed him down then started with some basics with him in the waiting room I used a verbal "yes" (with my pocket full of kibble for rewards) and I quickly had the over the top puppy offering focus, sits and downs in a very stimulating environment. It was simple, effective and I had a 4 m/o pup offering self control.

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I don't really... use a clicker. I either click with my tongue or I just say "YES!" to mark the correct behavior. For my deaf dog I use a thumbs up. I also use "Nope" when the dog gives me something I don't want (or for the deaf dog I sign 'no'), and they try again. Sometimes I use food. For others I use tug, or a ball toss, or just rough play (Kylie in particular loves being shoved away from me and then jumping back for another play).

 

I am not coordinated enough, nor do I have fast enough brain/hand time to use a physical clicker. It just doesn't work with me and my timing is all off. Add in dispensing treats to my lack of coordination and it


The general principal of marking and rewarding correct behavior DOES.


And honestly, that's ALL clicker training is about. Conditioning your dog that some signal from you means you liked that thing they did the second that it happens, and you're going to give them something they value in exchange. It's just a more precisely timed way saying "GOOD DOG" and scratching their ears or giving a belly rub, until the "GOOD DOG!" means they got it right.


The advantage is in the timing and precision. You can mark really subtle, fast, or minute behaviors with a click because it's a lot faster than 'good girl'. If a dog is, for instance, licking it's nose, it's over by the time you've finished saying good girl. It's *NOT* over by the time you click. The dog knows what it was doing at the instant of the click was what you wanted. Harder when the dog has not only finished licking its nose by the time you've said good girl, but has also started to yawn. Which was the behavior you're marking?

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I've been transitioning from a clicker to a mouth click. I seem to always have the mouth with me ;) It's as much of a job to learn to use the mouth click as the clicker - it's actually a very precise movement, with exacting placement of tongue, lips, and jaws. And I'm still automatically trying to press the clicker, even though it's not in my hands.

 

AND, I know I'll get better at it as I practice it, just the way it goes with everything. It means I can consistently 'mark' things that I like, and reinforce with whatever is available - tossing the ball, a bit of tug, or a good butt scratch. This makes training new behaviors possible more spontaneously, which I like.

 

I am glad that I start with treats, the treats really get most dogs' attention. Then it's easy to transition to other reinforcers, then to fade the reinforcer and only occasionally use something other than 'good dog!'

 

Ruth and SuperGibbs

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I have been trying the clicker, I have one with a loop that can go around my neck, I tend to wrap it around my wrist, but it is so darn hard for me to hold a leash, have treats and use that darn thing, I keep dropping it, or not clicking fast enough to let her know what she has done was a good thing or a bad thing, so with that said I have been using the clicker when I call her name, or whenever I am trying to get her attention. I tell her something once, then I use sounds to get her attention, with that in mind the clicker does seem to be helping me to get her attention.

At what point do you click?

 

The process should be to C/T when your dog looks at you voluntarily. Repeat and don't introduce an attention getting word or sound until you know that the next thing your dog is going to do is look at you.

 

Behaviour first then add the verbal cue.

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The advantage is in the timing and precision. You can mark really subtle, fast, or minute behaviors with a click because it's a lot faster than 'good girl'. If a dog is, for instance, licking it's nose, it's over by the time you've finished saying good girl. It's *NOT* over by the time you click. The dog knows what it was doing at the instant of the click was what you wanted.

 

The click, whether a clicker or a mouth/tongue click is also a sharper, more distinct sound that isn't nuanced by tone of voice, making it more definitive for the dog.

 

If you're frustrated by the way training's going, having a bad day in general, etc., it can creep ever so subtly into your tone of voice without your even realizing it. But the dog often does, and it can muddy the delivery of the reward marker.

 

Not so with a clicker or a mouth click, though the latter can be a little less distinct. (I've heard myself give slightly slurred mouth clicks from time to time. That never happens with a clicker.)

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