Archive for the ‘Clicker Training’ Category

Clicker Training Basics

Gemma | December 8th, 2009
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Training your pet is all about communicating with them effectively.

The more clearly you communicate with your pet the faster they will learn. One of the best training aids you can use to communicate clearly with your pet is a clicker.

Clickers allow you to clearly communicate with your dog. They can be used to send a clear message at the exact moment you need to communicate with your pet.

If you use it correctly the animal will recognise the clicker as a sign they are about to be rewarded for good behaviour.

There are many different clickers available and most are inexpensive devices that make a sound like a cricket.

They are usually small plastic boxes and can be taken anywere you go with your pet.

How Clickers Work

When you first get a clicker it will mean nothing to your dog. It’s up to you to give it meaning. To give the clicker a meaning to your dog you simply click it at the same time as giving your dog a tasty treat like a piece of chicken, dog biscuit etc. Food is actually one of the things called a “primary reinforcer”. These are things which you can use to condition or train your dog. Other primary reinforcers include affection, play and water.

When you click the clicker and give the dog food the clicker becomes a “secondary reinforcer”. The dog begins to associate the click with the food.

Now that your dog has linked food with the clicker you can begin using the clicker sound to train your dog. This is known as “operant conditioning”. A click now has a positive association in your dog’s mind.

When you are clicking you are sending a clear message to your dog that what they are doing is good. So if you want your dog to sit and you say “sit”, when they sit you click the clicker to tell them sitting is good.

The clicker can be used to make your dog repeat positive behavior which is the basis of training your dog. The more you use the clicker method the more effective it will become.

The Clicker Is Your Friend, Learn How To Use It

Gemma | December 2nd, 2006
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Remember that a dog functions in the here and now. The next second, its mind will be onto something else. You need to let your dog know exactly when its right and exactly when its wrong. If your timing is off, you may inadvertently be training just what you don’t want your dog to do!

This is one of the perfect reasons why using a clicker is so valuable when it comes to training your puppy. In fact, it is the preferred method of training by most professional dog trainers. A clicker is a tiny box with a metal tongue that makes a distinct click sound when pressed. This sound marks whatever behavior the animal performed at the precise time of the click, relaying a non-verbal, Thats it!

A treat immediately follows the click, reinforcing the behavior and encouraging the animal to do it again. Trainers who prefer not using a clicker generally substitute a short marker word, such as a clear yes, in lieu of the click, with all other factors the same.

Compared to corrective, force-type methods, this positive, reward-based approach to training builds a better overall relationship between you and your dog, which ultimately works because the dog wants to, not because it’s forced to.

Though the majority of trainers still employ some corrections, most don’t use any until the dog thoroughly understands a command, and even then on a limited basis. Novice handlers are hesitant to correct their dog for fear they’ll do it wrong or hurt the animal. They feel comfortable with positive methods, though, and thus are more likely to stick with training.

Quick Tip: Play The Name Game

At some point it becomes obvious that your puppy knows its name. However, many dogs become somewhat oblivious to their moniker because owners say it too frequently and too casually. Limit how often you say your dog’s name, saving it for times when a reward is forthcoming, assuring a positive association between hearing it and alerting it.

Just as with other basic training, there are games that encourage your dog to look your way upon hearing its name. One similar to the come-and-go game used for recalls involves throwing a treat out, allowing your puppy to get it, then calling its name right away. The instant it looks at you, mark the behavior with a click or word, such as yes, and immediately throw another treat. Within days it will start to come to you when you just say its name.

Clicker Training For Fun & Games – Part 3

Gemma | February 24th, 2006
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To The Mat

Wouldn’t it be nice if your puppy would go to its mat and lie down nicely on cue? It can happen, and once you’ve taught this behavior you can use it in many ways. For instance, you can place the mat wherever you need the puppy to go in the car, in a crate or simply away from people who don’t want a puppy jumping on them.

The last clicker training class I went to taught me just how to do this lesson. The trick is to teach puppies that hanging out on the mat is a good thing. Here’s how:

1. First, place the mat on the floor in front of the puppy. You have to be ready to click right away because most puppies will investigate anything new. When the puppy comes to sniff at the mat, click and treat. It’s best if you let your puppy come back to you for the treat, so it can have practice going to the mat again and again.

2. Next, don’t just click for a sniff or the mat. Wait the puppy should try to figure out what comes next. If the puppy comes to you, ignore it. When the puppy tries something else, such as actually touching the mat with its nose or putting a foot on the mat, click and treat again. Click anything that gets the dog engaged in the game that this particular item on the floor has importance.

3. Gradually click each new step, clicking as the puppy gets closer to the mat, ignoring the puppy as it gets further away. If the puppy isn’t touching the mat, height can help. A dog bed works better than, for example, a flat towel.

You can also lure the puppy toward the mat with a treat, then click when the pup steps on th mat. You want the puppy to understand that you want its feet on the mat. For many puppies, this only takes a few minutes, but some may take several sessions.

4. Once the puppy is standing on the mat, the next step is to ask for a sit. When the dog sits, either on your cue or on its own, click and treat.

5. Finally, attach a cue. Make sure that what the dog is doing is firmly in the dog’s mind before attaching a verbal cue like mat or bed. Practice until the puppy goes to the mat and sits on cue.

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Clicker Training For Fun & Games – Part 2

Gemma | February 19th, 2006
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You can teach your puppy some useful and desirable behaviors (not just obedience commands) by using the clicker. Clicker training is probably the simplest and fasted way to teach your puppy neat tricks, fun commands and polite manners.

Of course you need to first familiarize your puppy with the clicker. You do this by loading, or charging, the clicker. This quickly associates the clicker with a treat in the puppy’s mind. Clicker trainers know that this doesn’t take very long. Some puppies get it in just a few clicks.

It can take a puppy a little longer to figure out that its behavior can make the click, but the focus comes right away. Those trainers that have been working with a clicker for some time can take a new puppy that’s never seen the trainer before, and keep it focused for 10 minutes straight.

Peaceful Greetings

Here is one of my personal favorites from clicker trainers around the world. It makes no-jumping a fun and rewarding lesson. I call it Peaceful Greetings:

Oh those jumping, joyful puppies! They see you, rush to your side, and hop all over you how adorable – but what a shame to squelch that happy enthusiasm in a puppy that just wants to say hello! Instead, we suggest that you teach your puppy to avoid jumping on visitors by rewarding the puppy for saying hello peacefully. This exercise is easiest to teach with a partner, or in a group:

1. Put the leash on the puppy. Have one person hold the leash and the clicker while you stand back from the puppy, holding treats.

2. Approach the puppy. If it jumps up, do not make eye contact or say anything. Just back away again and wait a few seconds. Try again. Keep approaching the puppy and backing up if it jumps.

3. Eventually, the puppy will realize that it will have to try something different if it wants you to move toward it. When you step forward and the puppy keeps all four paws on the floor, the person holding the leash clicks, then the person approaching immediately gives a treat and praise.

4. Practice this until the puppy consistently keeps from jumping. Then, try it off the leash.

5. It’s best to do this in groups with children. Each person calls the puppy to him or her, but then ignores the puppy if it jumps, clicking and giving a treat when it stands or sits in expectation of a reward. Puppies usually learn the difference in just one or two training sessions.

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Clicker Training For Fun & Games – Part 1

Gemma | February 16th, 2006
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People often think of clicker training as a fast and easy way to teach basic obedience commands, such as sit or come, but it can also quickly shape puppy behavior in ways that establish a productive and happy relationship, right from the start.

Puppies understand very well and quickly that a click means something good, and that something the puppy did made that click happen, says Kevin Alexander, a leading clicker training specialist from Kansas City, Kansas.

Kevin once taught an entire litter of 3-week-old Golden Retriever puppies to lift their paws on cue in just a few minutes. When the puppies figure out that they’re getting clicked for a randomly lifted paw, you see the light bulb go on, as if they’re thinking, ‘Wait a minute, if I do this, that huge creature gives me food. That’s a good thing!’

Clicker Training can be used for much more than marking any single behavior. Mr. Alexander teaches pet owners how to use the clicker to teach incremental moves that can be shaped into desirable behaviors, such as going to a mat, standing nicely for grooming, or any number of fun tricks.

Lifting a paw, for example, can be transformed into a high-five trick, shaped into teaching the puppy to ring a bell when it needs to go outside, or even as an offering of the paw for nail trimming. As tricky as these behaviors may sound, the clicker makes them easy.

When puppies understand what you want, they start doing things on purpose, making eye contact, and suddenly, these tiny puppies wake up and smell the coffee, and think about the universe in relation to themselves, Kevin says. It’s just a wonderful thing for puppies to learn.

Clicker training is particularly useful for dogs that aren’t traditionally known for their skill at basic obedience. Perfect examples are Hounds, terriers and other traditional non-obedience breeds. These breeds do especially well with the clicker because it gives them a clear reason why they should do something they might not see the reason for otherwise.

Dogs that tend to have a Why should I do this? type of attitude really buy into clicker training (although it does work with all breeds). In fact, the best age to bring a clicker into your dog’s life is early, as young as two to three weeks of age.

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Clicker Training 101: Creating Positive Associations

Gemma | February 11th, 2006
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Another wonderful thing about using a clicker to train your dog is that it can be used as an occasion setter.

Here’s What I Mean:

You know how excited your dog gets whenever she hears the bag of treats rustling? Or when you pick up the leash?

She has made associations with these activities and learned that something good is about to happen. The rustling of the treat bag signals a meal occasion and the leash is associated with going for a walk.

As a result, she really focuses on you in anticipation of what’s about to happen. She will often offer behaviors like sitting or lying down or spinning in circles as if to say, What do you want me to do? Sit? Beg? Jump? Get you a beer?

In other words, your dog is really excited to do what you’re about to ask because you have something she really, really… really wants!

With this in mind, whenever you show your dog a clicker, you flip that same switch in her head that says something good is about to happen. So your dog really looks forward to the occasion of training sessions and becomes intent on paying attention.

Using The Clicker As A Connection

The other nice thing about using a clicker is that it allows you time to get the treat to your dog. As I mentioned earlier, good training is all about the speed of rewarding. The quicker you get the treat to your dog, the more effective your training.

So let’s say you’ve asked your dog to lie down from twenty feet away. As soon as she does, you can immediately click, signaling she did a good job, but then you have several seconds to actually get the food treat to her.

The clicker acts as a connection, signaling the food is coming, but because you marked the behavior with the click, it’s as if you gave the food the instant her behind hit the floor.

Moving On To Life Rewards

Clickers are used to teach your dog a new behavior. When she knows what to do and does it when asked, the clicker is no longer necessary. You can maintain the behavior by using affection like petting and praising your dog. But you can also keep the behavior sharp by using life rewards.

A life reward is anything your dog wants that isn’t food related. For example, if you ask your dog to lie down, the reward is going for a walk. If you ask your dog to sit, the reward is chasing a ball.

Clicker training is all about positive reinforcement, so it’s a terrific way to train your dog and have fun at the same time!