No Stinkin' Leashes Moderator
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: SF Bay Area
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.
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