clicker trainers - share your success stories? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 30 (permalink) Old 12-01-2008, 02:33 AM Thread Starter
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clicker trainers - share your success stories?

Hi folks,

I jumped onto the Clcker Training Wagon a couple of days ago. I've heard many good things about it so crossing my fingers it works for my dogs. My two dogs each have their own special issues that I'm needing to work on, but both have what is believed to be low esteem/confidence issues which have manifested in different ways in each dog.

The book that came with my kit from makes it sound almost like overnight success is possible (of course that's dog-dependant). I'm skeptical on that and want to be realistic. Not saying it's not possible, not saying the book writers are saying things that will sell their product. I *am* actually looking forward to doing this. But facing facts, you can put whatever you want to in a book or on a web site, doesn't make it true. (Please don't shoot me, I have a suspicious nature.)

I'm not asking for a sales pitch or to be sold on the product, I'm looking for some honest input from those that have used it. I would love to hear your own personal favorite success story involving your own dog(s) once clicker training was introduced.

I can see where clicking would be a great success with young puppies. I'm more interested in stories that include dogs that had some bad habits and esteem/confidence issues that you were able to break or change using clicker training because this is what I have to do. If you would, it would be helpful to know the average time frame it took you to turn bad habits around. For both me and my dogs, I need to deal in reality. Thanks!

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post #2 of 30 (permalink) Old 12-01-2008, 05:43 AM
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Re: clicker trainers - share your success stories?

Clicking really takes YOU out of the picture-- your emotions, expectations, your stress, and lets the dog just concentrate on the tasks at hand: sit, down, focus on you, etc. I have found clicker training gets an anxious dog a lot more relaxed. Plus, clicker training can make a dog think "Oh, clicking! Well, that means we're working here, even at the vets or train station-- so I'd better watch for that next command!" "Click to Calm" by Emma Parsons is a good book. Tasks and behaviors you clicker train doesn't need to be clickered forever, either-- it becomes a happy, learned pattern.

The negative is: Pushy, dominant, bossy type dogs can turn clickertraining around. They see this backwards: THEY become the well-fed boss, and you the obedient 2-legged foodbowl that supplies them ON DEMAND. You do get the behaviors you want-- but the dog's demeanor changes, they become pushy-er, and angry-pushy-greedy-piggy... even if you withhold the treat until they take it "nicely." These dogs may even "defend" their obedient 2-legged foodbowl from other dogs on walks. Food-training can change everything for a truly pushy dog, even with NILIF in daily living, some dogs do not respond well to clicker-training.

I have an "Oinking Overlord." I love him to pieces! I DO use clicker at times-- but not often.

For relatively mild-mannered dogs, I LOVE the results I see with clicker training, but like each method out there, it is NOT for every dog.

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post #3 of 30 (permalink) Old 12-01-2008, 02:58 PM
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Re: clicker trainers - share your success stories?

We started clicker training with last week (when he was 8 weeks), so I can only speak from the experience of a week's worth of training.

It was a miracle for us when we started using it!

The main thing it gave us was the language to speak to our puppy!

When I clicked for the first time on him releasing my hand on my "ipe", he looked at me with estanishment as in "So you liked THAT?"

Even after this one day there was a huge difference and every day makes it better!

For instance, today, I was training giving bits of roast beef. Xargos was in down -- the kitties came running for their bits of meat too. I was treating the three of them, and clicking Xargos on staying down and relaxed. He stayed down all the time and I can see he really understood that that was what I liked!

Regarding the treats, I already skip treats for some behaviour, in particular I have to when I don't have them with me : ) That is a very important part of clicker training -- random treating once you got the behaviour...

I think clicker training does miracle for giving you a "handle" both you and your dog can latch on to undertand each other!

Shaping is another very interesting part of it -- it's fun to see Xargos trying to figure things out -- so joyful and delightful and meaningful for you both!

Another great book is "Don't shoot the dog" by Karen Pryor -- highly recommend to get the theory, the techniques and practical examples ...

All the best!


Xargos Vom Haus Tyson (born Sep., 27, 2008)
LoveBug, a brown-with-white Siberian cat, the kindest cat on earth (born Oct.27,2007)
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post #4 of 30 (permalink) Old 12-05-2008, 07:28 PM
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Re: clicker trainers - share your success stories?

I love clicker training and the theory behind it.

However, I have noticed that my two dogs respond very differently. My cocker, who I've always pegged as a little dim, proved me wrong. She just needed the right motivation and she is super smart. She has learned all sorts of tricks and seems to really enjoy work time.

I don't think its that my GSD doesn't respond well to clicker training, its that I think I'm not smart enough/quick enough to shape her behaviors. She offers behaviors and is like "Is this right?" "How about this?" She just kind of spazzes out and then she's over it. She's not very forgiving and food isn't a huge motivator. Like I said, I'm sure its me and my timing, etc. However, with her I have found that doing a combination of different techniques and mostly just a "good" work better for her. Too much fuss from me tends to be really more stimulation than she can handle. She seems to get into work mode and we get mentally in synch if I just give her a command and then acknowlege with a "good."
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post #5 of 30 (permalink) Old 12-05-2008, 08:10 PM
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Re: clicker trainers - share your success stories?

I don't use an actual clicker much, but I use the concepts behind clicker training all the time. I mark a behavior I like (for me, that means I say "YESSS!!" exactly when my dog does the behavior) and then I follow that with a reward. I use negative punishment (for example, withholding attention when my dog is doing something I don't like) and I leave it up to my dogs to figure out what I want most of the time.

It's been extremely effective on all the dogs I've used it on. I even had the opportunity to do some training with a full-blooded wolf and it worked well. I've used it on cats and horses, too, always with good results.

Developing the proper timing is important for the human so that the right behaviors are marked. For instance, my youngest shepherd is very vocal and when we're working on heeling, she has a tendency to bark often. So I have to really try to mark her behavior BETWEEN barks so that she doesn't think I'm rewarding her for barking. She's a bit of a challenge but she has learned attention through positive reinforcement and will sit and stare at me even if I hold treats in my open hands alongside either side of her face. She learned quickly (as most do) that the only way to receive the reward is to offer the correct behavior.

As far as success stories go - my youngest chow earned her RN, RA, RE and CD all before the age of three and she was trained almost entirely with the clicker-training concepts. She was in the ring 13 times, had 12 qualifying scores and the only time we didn't qualify was the time she peed in the ring (automatic disqualification). In Excellent Rally, she was the dog that everyone ooh'd and aahh'd over when she did her "three steps back" exercise. The judges commented on it both right after she finished her exercises and again when giving out the ribbons. This was trained entirely off-leash and with positive reinforcement. You know you're doing something right when the border collie and golden retriever people are coming over to ask you how you trained your chow! *L*

I highly recommend sticking with clicker training or at least the clicker training style. You build happy enthusiasm and it's FUN for both human and dog. If you feel you need to add in corrections, you can do that later for specific problems. In the meantime, your dog is learning to trust you because you're training with rewards instead of corrections.

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post #6 of 30 (permalink) Old 12-06-2008, 12:19 AM
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Re: clicker trainers - share your success stories?

Great idea for a thread! I have a great success story with a reactive dog aggressive American Bulldog named Jasmine.
Jasmine came to the dog daycare I used to work at. When I started there she had already been attending daycare for a little while. The owners are not particularly dog savvy and had a few incidents with her going after other dogs, but had been able to keep anything from happening. Then one day one of the owners was with the dogs and Jasmine went after a high stress aussie mix that barked constantly. (this dog should not have been in the group to start with because she stressed all the dogs but this is another story) Jasmine got a hold of her and there were a couple scratches in result. Now the owner was afraid of Jasmine and kept her seperated from all the dogs ("time out" as they called it but she never came back from that time out)
Jasmine became full blown reactive at this point, going after dogs and "sharking" them as I called it. Going after them from the sides and smelling them aggressively to the point of lifting them off the ground. Obviously being very rude and pushy, which most dogs would not tolerate and any reaction from another dog would set her into a frenzy.
This was about the time I started there. I ended up talking to the owner about training and her dogs, and she told me that she brought Jasmine there particularly because she had these issues. Well of course that was not a good idea, especially with inexperienced dog people running the place, but she didn't know that. So she hired me to start doing one-on-one lessons and working with Jasmine at the daycare.
I started by introducing her to clicker with the "watch" command away from other dogs. We did sessions at their home and at the dog daycare when no other dogs were present. We also worked on walking with a loose leash, and all the basic commands. We really built the watch command to use around other dogs.
When she came to daycare one day at the start of training, I was not there that day and the owner felt bad that Jasmine was not in the group, and "Ceasar always puts them back in the group" in her words (both owners thought they knew all about dogs because they watched Ceasar Millan on TV, scary I know!) and a dog that was very reactive and beta, challenged her and he ended up with multiple puncture wounds from Jasmine that resulted in multiple staples, luckily he had a very understanding owner (although I am not sure she should have been).
This set her back to square one. So I started intensely working with her at daycare. First her owner bought a gentle leader for Jasmine. We found this had a strong self controlling effect on her and was very helpful. We never had to put any pressure on the leash she would respond to verbal commands very quickly with the gentle leader. I started with her being in a seperate area and clicking and treating for eye contact and basic commands while other dogs were in view. I would often randomly approach her during the day when she was quiet and calm and click/treat her.
Eventually I started bringing her out next to the pen where the dogs were and practicing her commands. She did excellent. Eventually she could sit next to the fence with other dogs approaching while staying under her threshold.
Next I brought her into an adjoining pen, again with the gentle leader and clicker, practicing commands, and eye contact. My goal was to get her to lay down as much as possible and stay there calmly in all areas.
From there I left her in the pen with the leash on and went into the pen with the other dogs. I would click and treat her from that pen, again giving her commands. She would often lay down and relax and I would give her a "jackpot" for that.
Sometimes the dogs would start playing and getting a little rough and this would start to get her riled up so I would bring her back to a down-stay, until she was calm and then end the session. I always kept her under her threshold and she never charged the fence/barked/or charged a dog.
Lastly, I took her into the large pen with certain dogs I knew were stable and not reactive. She did excellent.
Eventually she was dragging the leash, being calm, and actually interacting with these dogs!
From this point I worked with her owner at their home doing the same thing but in their neighborhood. They wanted to take Jasmine and their other non-aggressive AB on the golf cart for their nightly ride to the beach. But Jasmine was reactive and fight to jump off, especially after bikes, cars, and other dogs. Using the clicker with both Jasmine and Mia, her sister, they could take both for their nightly ride.
They also had a neighbor dog, a older lab, that barked all day long. Jasmine would run straight for her as soon as she got outside charging and jumping on the fence and barking. Again, we used the clicker, using her solid commands to distract her, and even did some clicker with the neighbor dog. Everytime Jasmine returned to us when approaching the fence (before she would bark/charge) we would click and treat. It worked like a charm and I am happy to say Jasmine has not returned to that behavior at all. They treats we used for them were Yummy Chummies, and hot dogs.
This was over approx. a 6 month period.

Sorry so long, but I think this is a great example of how effective the clicker can be. Jasmine was triggered by barking dogs, other dogs playing or running, and other fast moving objects like bikes.

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post #7 of 30 (permalink) Old 12-06-2008, 07:13 PM
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Re: clicker trainers - share your success stories?

A little history on Risa first. I got her from a shelter when she was 2.5 years old. She was very shy and scared of pretty much everything. This dog had no confidence at all and no obedience training. I started clicker training with her about 4 months after bringing her home after trying more traditional methods with her on my own. My methods were not too successful.

I wasn't sold on clicker training at the start. But that was because I didn't understand it at the time. The first day of class Risa wouldn't let anyone (or anydog) within 6-8 feet of her. Not even the trainer could approach her without her running away. It did not take long for the clicker to 'click' with Risa. Her confidence increased in classes and she soon became very comfortable there. She really started to shine and show off her intelligence by learning a lot of new behaviors. Shaping became one of her favorite tasks. We kept taking obedience classes with the same trainer for about 1.5 years. We did some agility, rally, canine freestyle, general obedience, etc.

We moved and I signed us up for an agility class. New location + new classroom + new trainer = a very scared Risa. As soon as the instructor closed the door to the room, Risa panicked. She paced and panted. When it came time for us to work on some agility exercises, I didn't expect much from her. She was very focused on everything else that was going on which didn't surprise me. As she attempted the equipment, she got a click/treat. And the lightbulb turned on. "This is just that clicker thing!" Though she was still worried, she was much calmer because she knew what was expected of her. This wasn't something scary--it was the same thing she already understood.

So, I can say from firsthand experience, that clicker training can really help a dog gain confidence. Just the smile on their face when they realize "THIS is what my human wants!" is totally worth it. When they understand that what they do is important and matters, they really develop into more confident dogs.


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post #8 of 30 (permalink) Old 12-08-2008, 01:48 PM
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Re: clicker trainers - share your success stories?

Like the OP, I am new to clicker training. I like the idea of this thread and hope it grows to include some good "how to" stories and examples. I am reading Karen Pryor's book (or pamphlet, as might be appropriate) and have gotten my GSD to understand that the click is a very good thing and that he will get a reward when he hears it.

Beyond that, I haven't accomplished much other than to dole out a lot of treats. I have clicked for a good 'sit' and a good 'down' - both commands he already knew. I haven't managed to teach anything new yet - since the core of clicker training seems to be waiting for the desired action/behavior and then rewarding it. So I would enjoy reading how others progress through the stages of training and how to best set up situations for success and specifically desired behavior.

We are almost always trying to "correct" undesirable behavior... leave it... off... away from the table... quit putting your slobbery ball in my lap.... stop barking.... please, for the love of God, STOP BARKING!, etc. My brain is having a hard time making the jump from "stop that or I will beat the crap out of you" to "hey, way to not do that... good job!". That is not to imply that I beat my dog, nor that I don't understand positive vs. negative training. I tried not using words, but how can I click-reward him for obeying a "leave it" unless I say "leave it"? Also, I don't want to watch him shred a book or something while I wait for him to get bored and stop, so that I can click-reward. That does not seem like teaching him anything positive.

So, I struggle as a noob to this, and hope to "get it" myself so that I can make some progress. I will say that the clicker is a good tool that immediately grabs his attention every time. But now I feel like I have to have a clicker and treats with me constantly.
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post #9 of 30 (permalink) Old 12-08-2008, 02:13 PM
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Re: clicker trainers - share your success stories?

I'm very, very new to clicker-training, too, and I know that more experienced users will chime in with more info, but here are some thoughts from another newbie:

We are almost always trying to "correct" undesirable behavior... leave it... off... away from the table... quit putting your slobbery ball in my lap.... stop barking.... please, for the love of God, STOP BARKING!, etc.
I asked a very similar question about this (specifically, stopping Charlie's jumping up habit - he recently discovered that he's big enough to jump up on the countertops!). While clicker-training isn't for corrections, if you really watch your dog, you'll probably be able to derail him *before* he does the behavior you don't want. For example, with the jumping. When I'm cooking (or working, he likes to jump up on the table, while I'm typing - I guess to make sure I'm spelling everything correctly, lol) I keep the clicker around my wrist and a little dish of good food treats - cheese bits, bacon... something yummy - on the counter. When I notice he's about to jump up, I say "Charlie, sit!" If he's sitting, he obviously can't be jumping - so that's when I click and treat. After an evening of making him sit (rather than jump) I moved on to sit, then down. (Click-treating all the way.) Then I increased the amount of time he stayed in a down-stay before the click/treat. We've now moved on to variable rewards - he's not getting treated for every click any more. In less than a week, I've seen a big improvement in Charlie. Of course this behavior is not "perfect" yet, but we are talking about a 7-month-old "adolescent" puppy who is still learning - and he's doing great! So that is one suggestion I have - instead of correcting him, use the clicker to teach him new behaviors.

For some of the other things you listed, you could teach him new behaviors to do instead - if you don't want the ball in your lap, you could teach your dog to put it away in a toy box; if you want him away from the table, you could teach him "place" by clicking and rewarding him when he's on his dog bed or another place and then gradually adding the "place" command...

One thing I like about clicker-training is that it seems to take a little more patience from us people - not to mention *really* watching our dogs, but it also seems to really sink in with our dogs. This morning, while cooking breakfast, I twice saw Charlie get in his "I'm gonna pounce" stance and then he paused, and sat on his own. I was SO proud - so proud! No corrections needed - he got it! (OK, he did jump up once when I finished the bacon and set it on its plate. I directed him right back down in a sit. We're learning!)

Quote:I tried not using words, but how can I click-reward him for obeying a "leave it" unless I say "leave it"?
Check out this video! This is how I started with the clicker!

This is a behavior that I really should be proofing every day, in every room, with every possible item, so that gives me some ideas for things to do with Charlie this evening! Probably all puppy owners should! It amazes me that Charlie finds such enjoyment and pleasure in playing with such a wide variety of household items.

Quote: Also, I don't want to watch him shred a book or something while I wait for him to get bored and stop, so that I can click-reward. That does not seem like teaching him anything positive.
I don't think that clicker-training experts would recommend that at all! What about, instead, teaching him "drop it?" If you have your treats so that you can click-treat, you probably don't need to start with words - just walk over with your treat and click the moment he drops the item. Maybe start with a ball so that he learns the behavior, and then after you know he has it, you can add the command word - that way you can tell him "drop it" when he picks up your book (with your treat to click/reward him when he listens) and he'll know what you are saying.

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post #10 of 30 (permalink) Old 12-08-2008, 02:39 PM
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Re: clicker trainers - share your success stories?

rainydaygoods - thanks for the lengthy and great post. GSD is just 13 months - so I can verify that you can make it through 7 months and beyond... despite occasional indications otherwise.

"drop" and "leave it" are commands he knows. I will be working to strengthen and reinforce them with the clicker - but I suppose where I begin to question the method and philosophy is when the dog makes the decision to disobey. I know I'll take flack for this, as most folks here seem to feel that there is no place in training for correction - but I feel there has to be a "no", and that as with a child, that "no" must have the meaning of consequence. Judging from the behaviour of children in public these days, no doubt many will disagree with this too.

My GSD is a very hard dog. There are times that he simply defies me, and it has nothing to do with his knowledge of the expectation or the reward he will forego.

I think clicker training is a great tool. But in the toolbox, one must have more than one tool. I have never seen a mother dog with a clicker...
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