Question about clicker training - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-05-2012, 01:45 PM Thread Starter
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Question about clicker training

Been watching some youtube videos on clicker training. It seems that the clicker happens AFTER the deed is done, and the reward is about to happen.

I can't seem to grasp the concept of this.

Why not just reward?

What is the clicker actually doing?

What if it's not a food motivated dog?
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post #2 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-05-2012, 01:51 PM
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Been watching some youtube videos on clicker training. It seems that the clicker happens AFTER the deed is done, and the reward is about to happen.
The click happens AT THE SAME TIME as the dog does the behavior it was asked.

I can't seem to grasp the concept of this.

Why not just reward?
Because timing can be off and you have a couple of second window to reward AS the behavior is happening. The clicker marks the behavior and tells the dog that a reward is coming.

What is the clicker actually doing?
Science has proven that the clicker talks straight to the instinct part of the brain and the sound itself releases feel good endorphines. It also gets the timing down quicker than giving a treat or saying a word.

Read Reaching The Animal Mind by Karen Pryor to read more about how it works with all different kinds of animals and people.

What if it's not a food motivated dog?
Then you don't click and use play or toys as a reward instead.
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post #3 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-05-2012, 01:56 PM
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The most basic way of clicker training is using it as a marker - the click marks the exact moment of behavior that you're rewarding. You can just reward without marking, but by the time you deliver it, your dog may be doing something else. For example, if your dog sits and you give her a reward she may have also cocked an ear, turned her head, shifted onto one hip.....any number of things. But if the second her butt hit the floor you used the clicker and then rewarded her, she would understand that it was the sit that's being rewarded. Of course in order for her to make this association she'd have to know that the click = a reward will follow. You can also use a voice marker (usually "yes!") in addition to or instead of a clicker.

If you're shaping behavior you're going to break it down into tiny increments, so being able to mark very quickly and specifically is important.

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post #4 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-05-2012, 02:01 PM
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Clicker training was very easy with my GSD puppy. He learned commands fast and they stuck with him. My husband never understood the concept either. When he (my husband) started training his labrador retriever puppy a few months ago, he refused to use the clicker. It's easy for me to see the difference in training. Give the clicker a try. Very easy and in my case very effective.

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post #5 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-05-2012, 02:07 PM
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Why not just reward?
You could, but often I am clicking behaviors that happen at a distance. Dogs need to be marked or rewarded within 2 seconds of the behavior. Say I'm training a distance recall, the first step for me is to mark and reward the dog initially stopping what he's doing and turning his head toward me, so I can I "just reward" a dog for this behavior within 2 seconds if he's 50+ feet away from me?

What is the clicker actually doing?

The clicker is "marking" the behavior at the time the dog performs it.

What if it's not a food motivated dog?
I would use methods other than clicker training.
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post #6 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-05-2012, 02:11 PM
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I've always wondered about this as well. I went to a "Dave Kroyer" seminar, and noticed that everyone there was using a "clicker" as part of their training. I definitely can relate in giving a treat in a "delayed" reaction.
I may just give this a try.

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post #7 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-05-2012, 02:14 PM
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Like everyone has already mentioned... you're marking the behavior. When you click, that means the dog has done exactly what you've asked. This is your way of showing her and then rewarding with a treat.

I'm sure you've heard that dogs live in the moment, right? Well this is exactly how you mark the exact moment of correct behavior. You say sit, the dog's butt hits the ground, and you click right away. Sit = butt on the ground. Butt on the ground = click.
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post #8 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-05-2012, 02:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gsdraven View Post
What if it's not a food motivated dog?
Then you don't click and use play or toys as a reward instead.
I'd think you could click and then offer whatever else it is that you would normally use as a reward. In fact, if you offer play, such as a quick game of tug, as a reward, I would think the click would be even more crucial. The click simply marks the desired behavior. You can use a word, such as "good" to accomplish the same purpose, but the clicker is faster and always sounds the same.

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post #9 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-05-2012, 02:59 PM
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Originally Posted by paulag1955 View Post
I'd think you could click and then offer whatever else it is that you would normally use as a reward.
You could but most people will tell you not to use the clicker without food. The most important thing to remember is that you need to build a reward history with the clicker. Mark the behavior and then offer reward. Every single time. If you click and don't reward (whatever reward means to you) then you devalue the click.

My personal preference is not to fool with the clicker if I'm not using food.

The clicker, like many tools, is often abused and misunderstood. It is either used too long and the dog becomes reliant on it to comply or it is used inappropriately such as clicking to "get the dog's attention". So I only use it to jumpstart behaviors (which 90% of the time involves food reward) and then move away from it as soon as I can.
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post #10 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-05-2012, 07:27 PM
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Originally Posted by paulag1955 View Post
I'd think you could click and then offer whatever else it is that you would normally use as a reward. In fact, if you offer play, such as a quick game of tug, as a reward, I would think the click would be even more crucial. The click simply marks the desired behavior. You can use a word, such as "good" to accomplish the same purpose, but the clicker is faster and always sounds the same.
You can use marker words and use other rewards for training but both of these fall outside the realm of "clicker training". "Clicker training" is different than "training with a clicker", if that makes sense. The phrase implies certain things about how and what marker and rewards are used and why. Karen Pryor has some great articles on her site that explain why a clicker is used instead of a marker word and why not all rewards can be used for clicker training.
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