Clicker training question and where to buy one? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
 
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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 04-10-2009, 01:02 PM Thread Starter
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Clicker training question and where to buy one?

I've been researching a little on clicker training. Here are my 2 questions:

1. I've watched some videos on youtube and I don't understand the purpose. You click it when they do something right, or something you want them to do, then you immediately give them a treat. We already give commands and treats without a clicker and it works just fine. Is the positive click supposed to be an "extra treat" for confirmation that they did what you wanted them to? I was thinking you click it once for "sit", twice for "stay", etc. but I was way off. You click it after they give the desired result, not before to get a desired result like I originally thought. Is this a strengthening tool? It seems to work for everyone who has tried it, as I've never read anything negative about this training. I'm just still lost on it. I want to try it either way, because anything that can make my dogs even better (they're great now as it is!) can only be better for us, too!

2. Where do you buy one? Pet stores? Is this common at every pet store now, or is it still a rare find and only certain stores sell them?

Thanks in advance!
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 04-10-2009, 01:39 PM
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Re: Clicker training question and where to buy one?

The click marks the behavior you are rewarding. That's it. Are you marking behavior verbally ("yes!") when you train a command or just giving a treat? You don't need to mark or reward every single time your dog obeys a command, only when you're training new behaviors. Once a behavior is learned, well established, and generalized to all situations, simple verbal praise ("good girl!"), a pat on the side, or access to something they want is sufficient.

But marking the EXACT behavior and following up with a reward, treat or toy, facilitates the learning process. Verbal markers are less precise than a clicker, which always sounds the same, and with practice can be done at exactly the moment that the dog is doing the behavior you want to reward. If you are giving a treat, but not also marking the behavior, you may inadvertently be rewarding whatever the dog did AFTER he did what you wanted because it's difficult to deliver treats that quickly and precisely, especially if you're not right there. Properly rewarding distance commands would be impossible without using some sort of marker to bridge the time between the dog doing the behavior and delivering the treat because he may be doing something else by then - he's still sitting, but he's turned his head to look at something, or cocked an ear in response to a sound, or leaned to the left, or scratched his belly..... How does he know THAT'S not what he's been rewarded for?

You can also use a clicker to "capture" any behavior you want to encourage, without giving any command at all. Basically, catching them in the act. If you want to reinforce your dogs' attention, you would click and toss a treat each time you catch him/her spontaneously looking at you. If you want to encourage your dogs to lay on the floor and hang out for awhile you would click and treat each time they laid down. Any behavior that is rewarded will be offered up with increased frequency. You can add a verbal command later, once the dog is consistently offering it. You can also start delaying the click and treat very gradually to build longer attention, or more time laying calmly on the floor.

Another way to use a clicker is to shape behavior. You mark and reward incremental steps towards whatever the final behavior is, usually letting the dog figure out what works and what doesn't. There was an excellent video where a guy teaches his dog to pick up an object the dog had never seen before and bring it to him in just a few minutes, without saying a word. I'll see if I can find it a post it here. All he does is first click/treat when the dog looks at the object. After a few times of that, he only clicks and treats when the dog moves towards the object, and then when the dog actually touches the object. For the next step the dog has to pick up the object for the click/treat, and then pick it up and take a step towards him, finally ending with the dog actually bringing him the object and releasing it to him for the c/t. At that point he can name the behavior by adding whatever verbal cue he wants to assign to it. This was a clicker savvy dog, so it took less time than it would to teach a dog that had never been trained in this way before, but the more you use a clicker to shape behavior the faster the dog will learn to keep trying stuff and see what works.

Clickers should be readily available in most pet stores. I prefer the button type over the box type, but either will work.

-Debbie-
Cava 1/6/18
Keefer 8/25/05-4/24/19 ~ The sweetest boy
Halo 11/9/08-6/17/18 ~ You left pawprints on our hearts
Dena 9/12/04-10/4/08 ~ Forever would have been too short
Cassidy 6/8/00-10/4/04
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 04-10-2009, 01:54 PM
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Re: Clicker training question and where to buy one?

Haven't found it yet, but here are a couple others:

Clicker training "leave it": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNAOe...BD3DDC&index=2

Loose leash walking: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFgtq...e=channel_page

I like to either attach my clicker to my treat bag so I can click and reach in for the treat, or have it on a wrist coil: http://www.cleanrun.com/index.cfm?fu...4&ParentCat=57

My favorite clicker is the i-clicker, which is also pictured.

-Debbie-
Cava 1/6/18
Keefer 8/25/05-4/24/19 ~ The sweetest boy
Halo 11/9/08-6/17/18 ~ You left pawprints on our hearts
Dena 9/12/04-10/4/08 ~ Forever would have been too short
Cassidy 6/8/00-10/4/04
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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 04-10-2009, 02:15 PM
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Re: Clicker training question and where to buy one

I just used a clicker to teach my 5 month old puppy to go to a mat that she'd never seen before and automatically lay down on it this week. It took one training session of about 10 minutes.

I put the mat on the floor and of course she came over to check it out. As soon as she stepped on it I clicked and gave her a piece of kibble. I walked away and then walked back towards it, circling around the mat until she stepped on it and then I clicked and treated her again. We did this a couple of times, and then once she had the idea that having at least her two front feet on the mat earned a treat, I waited until she had all 4 feet on the mat before the c/t. Next, I waited a moment after she had all 4 feet on the mat and she sat and looked at me - c/t with a piece of kibble.

I called her off the mat using our release word, stepped away a few feet, and then walked back towards it again, this time waiting for her to get all four feet on it, and then giving the "down" command. Since my goal is an automatic down on the mat, I clicked and gave her pieces of Natural Balance roll for the down, a much higher value treat, along with enthusiastic praise, then called her off the mat again. We did this several more times, (I think I only had to give her the down command twice before she started doing it automatically) and when she was going to the mat, spinning around to face and dropping into a down, I added the command "go to your mat" and a visual cue of pointing to it, which I'll probably eventually phase out.

We've only worked on this once so far, the next step is to move the mat to various places in the house so she knows to get on the mat no matter where it is, and then to send her to it from further distances. Right now we're only a few feet away and I'm walking towards the mat with her. Ultimately, we could be across the room from the mat and I can give the command and she'll run to the mat without me and lay down on it until I release her, or even send her to her mat in another room in the house.

-Debbie-
Cava 1/6/18
Keefer 8/25/05-4/24/19 ~ The sweetest boy
Halo 11/9/08-6/17/18 ~ You left pawprints on our hearts
Dena 9/12/04-10/4/08 ~ Forever would have been too short
Cassidy 6/8/00-10/4/04
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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 04-10-2009, 02:24 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Clicker training question and where to buy one?

Thanks for the info. I didn't mention it, but since you asked, yes, after our dogs do what we ask, we immediately reward them with the verbal "good girl" or "good sit", "good 'whatever'," etc. and give a treat. We hope to eventually phase out the mass amounts of treats because sometimes, like when we play fetch, the amount of treats can replace a meal, which is not good. Granted, I'm using what I consider to be top notch organic/holistic/grain-free treats, and I noticed that if I use all jerky treats, they get softer poo or the runs (if they eat too many), so I either mix dry kibble-like treats with jerky treats, or just use dry treats exclusively to keep the poo solid.

So this leads me to my next question. Is the goal to eventually phase out the treats once they get the command/behavior down? Or do you eventually phase out the constant clicking? Or are you expected to continue using both for the rest of their lives? Or do you phase out both?

With Nara and Paw Paw, commands that they know by heart, like the basic "sit," even if they are stubborn about performing them the first time I tell them to, they don't always get a treat, because I'm constantly working on obedience with them and they would never eat their real food...they'd be full on treats every day. And I tried substituting their kibble every other treat, but they got wise to the smell and wouldn't take it. They outsmarted me and would only want a treat.

I have noticed that, the better the treat, the better they perform. The Innova EVO treats are their favorite, but they are so big, and if you try to break them in half, they crumble into pieces/powder, so I have to give them the entire treat and I hesitate giving them too many because I want them to eat a full meal at least once a day.

Thanks again for your assistance!
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 04-10-2009, 03:16 PM
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Re: Clicker training question and where to buy one?

Click always means a reward, but as I said, well established, generalized, learned commands do not always need a reward, so you also don't need your clicker. It's a training tool, so if you're not actively training a new skill (or increasing the difficulty of a known skill by adding distractions or duration) you don't need the tool. A verbal acknowledgment is fine, or if you're requiring a sit before going outside, or getting the leash on for a walk, or jumping in the car for a ride, or throwing a ball for them, or releasing them to eat, anything that they want to do, getting to do it IS the reward, a "real life" reward - do what I want and you get what you want.

I only use treats during fetch when I'm teaching them to give up the ball on command. As soon as I can say "give" and they immediately drop the ball I don't reward it with food anymore because they've learned what the command means. That can be within the first few training sessions with a smart, motivated dog who loves chasing balls. Throwing the ball for them to chase again is the reward, so treats are not necessary. Overuse of treats past that point can create a dependency on them so that the dog won't obey if the treat isn't there. If you're using food in training properly that won't happen because you move to a variable reward system and then eventually phase them out entirely, using those real life rewards, and also plenty of praise. I like to keep praise like "good girl" separate from a marker word like "yes" because the marker word, like the clicker, always mean a treat is coming. Verbal praise simply acknowledges the good behavior.

If you want to use kibble for treats, have them start working for all their meals. Or one meal a day, or part of a meal. If they eat two cups twice a day, use the first cup as training treats and then after the session is over they can have the rest in their bowls, and you can do impulse control exercises by having them in a sit or down with the bowl on the floor until you release them to eat, so you're STILL training.

-Debbie-
Cava 1/6/18
Keefer 8/25/05-4/24/19 ~ The sweetest boy
Halo 11/9/08-6/17/18 ~ You left pawprints on our hearts
Dena 9/12/04-10/4/08 ~ Forever would have been too short
Cassidy 6/8/00-10/4/04
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