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Clicker Training & rewards???

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Okay, I am getting totally confused here... anyone who has experience with clicker training please help??

I have never done clicker training with any of my dogs so I am a newbie, and I am learning.

Phoenix couldn't care less about treats for reward, he prefers a tennis ball or his basketball. However, one of the things I am trying to teach him is to bring the ball back!

I am sooo proud that the ball is working much better than treats on teaching recall. He will do anything or go or come anywhere as long as I have the ball. I obviously can't carry a ball around with me all the time,(hmmm, maybe I should just get a pair of maternity pants and stuff them with the basketball, ya think someone would find it a little strange, since I am the ripe ol age of 57!! hmmm, might be fun)!, so I would like to know if using the ball for reward, is comparable to using treats. Do I just wean off the "ball", when his behaviour is consistent as we do with food treats???

He likes treats, but with this BC boy, I am finding out that getting him "worked-up" , for lack of a better term, with a ball...helps to get and keep his attention for his training sessions and I can incorporate the ball into his sits, stays, downs, etc. and so far even his recall (which he did beautifully with from about 10wks old to about 5 mos old, now at 7 mos. he seems to have "forgotten totally"! huh! Once we have worked with the ball for about 15 minutes, and his tounge is wagging, I can usually tell him,

"that'll do", let him settle for a minute or so, then he will take treats for a couple of "commands" (oooooh I don't like that word),but it will have to do I guess.

Anyway, Please help with any suggestions or advice you may have to offer.

Thanks JoeAnne, Mirra, Sitka, Phoenix and crew

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In a Susan Garrett seminar she explained that you can use whatever you want with a clicker, as long as it is something the dog wants really bad.


Remember, the clicker is just a marker that marks THE behavior you want. The toy, food or play, etc is the reward they get for doing that behavior.


I use both the food and a tug toy in my clicker training. It's actually good to have a few different types of rewards in your bag of tricks.


When folks tell me their dog won't work for food, if I bust out some smoked salmon and Fido is doing hand-stands in 3 seconds, then it's not the dog. It's the owner that is usually too damn lazy to go get some SUPER HIGH VALUE treats for the dog. Cheese, meat, jerky, cereal, etc. Make a trail mix for training. I mix a bunch of treats...jerky, salmon and kibble. I know which one is the higher value too. I use that one when something really great happens.



Tugging is best used as a reward with clicker because it's something that the dog can't do on his own and he has to be near you for it. You can use a ball toss - especially to build drive.


Also, a clicker session should only be about 10 to 20 things or about 3 minutes.


Take 10 pieces of food and put them in your pocket. Reward for what is correct. Put 1 piece for every action you didn't reward in your other pocket. When you are out of treats, you are done.


Don't over do clicker work. Do it 3 minutes twice a day when the dog is bored, lonely and hungry. You will see fast results.



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I am finally reading The Other End of the Leash this week. Marvelous. I also read Animals in Translation this weekend. There's a ton in both those books about motivating your dog on your dog's own terms. Body language is SO important. I'm learning things that my stockdog instructors have been trying to beat into my head for years - things like, if you give a command, don't put pressure on the dog at the same time. Steve calls it giving your dog freedom and Jack calls it letting your dog think or "making the right thing easy".


Don wouldn't take treats from my hand. Using the information from the book I tried turning at a right angle to him and making sure I did not bend towards him as I lowered the tidbit. Magic. He also gets nervous when I pet him, even if he was the one asking. Now I "act alpha" turning my head slightly up and away and let him touch ME while I crouch down. He's much more comfortable with this. He's a very sensitive dog (though very keen on sheep) and body language is all in all to him.


Consider whether your dog is actually uncomfortable with the way you are offering the treats or administering the "click" marker. Your body language will be dramatically different if you are preparing to offer a treat after the marker, versus preparing to throw a ball. You'll be open and relaxed when offering a toy reward. Try replicating your physical stance with the treat and see whether it makes a difference. It might not, as he might now associate the treat with physical pressure, but it's worth a try.

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I might add that I was offering treats to Don "just for the heck of it" - not in a training context.

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Thanks for the info... While I was working with Phoenix this evening, the question of clicking too much or for too long, popped into my head. I will definately shorten my clicker time, and the ideas on treats and motivation will also help. Can the book The Other End of the Leash & Animals in Transition, be bought in book stores, or does it have to be ordered on line?

Again thanks soooooooooooo much, I feel like a sponge and ready to soak any and all knowledge offered.

JoeAnne Mirra, Sitka, Phoenix and crew

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Hi Joe Anne


Try Dogwise for the books - certainly for The Other End of the Leash (great book). (And my trainer is on her second reading of Animals in Translation Becca - I haven't read it yet, but have heard a lot from my trainer - we're trying to put some stuff into practice in our sheep handling.)


Joe Anne - as well as the advice you've been given here, there are plenty of great articles on clicker training on the net. Clicker Solutions site is a good place to start.


I agree about the different types of rewards - and different types of food. Cheese (smelly) works well for many dogs, but you can experiment.

At a training camp, we were asked to make a list of our dog's favorite things, and favorite things to do. It's a good starting point.


The magic thing about the clicker, for me, is that it marks the instant the dog gives the behavior you were after/have decided to reward - or an approximation of it if you're shaping. I find it really makes me pay attnetion to what I'm doing and what the dog is doing.


Timing of the click, and a high rate of reinforcement are key, in the early stages especially.


I love my clicker for some things - obedience, some agility things, early flyball training, and tricks and 'dancing' moves. But personally I find no place for it in activities such as tracking and stockwork, where I really want the dog paying attention more to the task and instinct, than to me specifically - if that makes sense.


BTW, I find the iClick to be much more user friendly than the original box clickers.

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