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Thread: Advice on starting clicker training

  1. #1

    Default Advice on starting clicker training

    So I'm starting training for my 2 year old female Shar Pei. Decided to have a crack at clicker training, which will be a learning experience for me as well!

    Looking around at various sites, the recommendation when teaching a new behaviour seems to be trying to get the dog to associate action - sound - reward, and introduce the command later.

    For instance, spend a few minutes of clicking and rewarding every time she sits, and only introduce the sit command into the mix after she seems to get this.

    Now, she does know the sit command (though doing it is another matter.....especially when distracted!), but I thought this would be a good place to start.

    However, she doesn't seem to make the action - sound - reward connection, and just sort of stands there thinking 'come on, give me more treats!!!'.

    So, any thoughts / advice? Only done a small amount of work so far, can it take quite a while to build this up or do you think I'm going about it the wrong way?

  2. #2
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    If she already knows the command, I would use it. You only reward without cue when you are teaching a new behaviour normally. That may be why she is confused.

    To be honest, I very often introduce the cue immediately. But that is probably because I often combine it with luring - which is when you use a treat to guide them into the position you are after. That is for example how I taught my dog to lie down. I said "Down", then used a treat to guide her into that position, then clicked and gave her the treat as soon as she had her belly on the floor.

    There are lots of nifty things you can do with the clicker, but some of it I found too advanced for me. Shaping (starting of by rewarding behaviour the dog does of his own accord) was one of them for me. I understand the principle, but I am afraid I lack the patience to see it through.

    But the clicker does offer some definite advantages over other methods of rewarding even if you use it with more traditional methods of teaching behaviours. For example, if your dog is reluctant to sit, you could start with clicking when her bum only starts moving towards the ground. Then you can fine tune this by only clicking when she is halfway there, then only when her bum touches the floor. And you can go as far as only clicking when she stays in that position for a certain amount of time and then increase that time if you want to.

  3. #3
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    If she's not getting that -sound- = good/treats, then it could be a good idea to teach her that first. If you've never used a clicker with her before, then you'll need to teach her what it means. So just start off by clicking the clicker and giving her a treat every time you click it until she understands that -click- = treat, then you can start using it for actions she does to mark the behaviour as 'good'. Just make sure she's not doing anything unwanted when you're teaching her that -click- = good.

  4. #4
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    Yep...Initially click/treat, click-treat........Name, dog looks, click, treat.....Do lots of this. until if the dog just hears the click, it turns.

    It is called charging the marker........Lots and lots of click and treat. The dogs whole dinner can be given this way as a start.

    I have a almost 100% recall with my clicker and Katy. I click and if she can hear it, she comes flying ...If she is near me, she gives me focus.

    Nowadays if i click, she knows she has done the right thing and the click is also a reward and I have a certain amount of clicks, before I have to give a reward. this is good for distance work.

    With Katy, I now use both clicker and touch......She seems to think both are also rewards. She is so exited when i ask for a touch after she has done something right ...So click and touch works for her.
    Pets are forever

  5. #5

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    Thanks for that guys, very helpful. Lots of training issues to deal with (walking and socialising a problematic), but basics first

  6. #6
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    I was new to clicker training when I got my current dog about 8 months ago. And I have found it very, very useful. Especially for things like socialising, though my problem was that my dog was too friendly, especially with humans and especially the little ones. So I did a lot of "look at that" training and found the clicker immensely helpful for that.

  7. #7
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    Jason2012

    Good info there.

    When charging the clicker - it needs to go click-treat (count to three), click treat (count to three), otherwise the click doesn't mean treat following and doesn't get the value of the treat transfered to the click ie the dog starts to feel good/rewarded when it hears the click, not just when it gets the treat, so the timing (and spacing) is important.

    When trying to shape tricks or capture new behaviours, and your dog is just staring at you - try rewarding every different thing she does. ear flick, head turn, tongue poke etc, to encourage her to try new things. If I put any kind of perch (phone book wrapped in a towel) in front of my dog and I have a bag of treats on hand, she will try all sorts of things to get the treat, and to start with I reward all the different things before focussing on the thing I want... eg front feet on, all feet on, one back foot on etc.

  8. #8
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    The clicker is a marker sound. The 'click' marks the behavior like a camera snapshot for the dog to remember as being the right thing to do. Now there are two different ways of using it.

    1) as an actual marker and you guide the dog. So it's great for improving behaviors or getting the dog to learn faster for your ultimate goal. Say for sit you say 'sit' as soon as the dog sits you click, treat. You mark the picture perfect position you want and you mark improvements when you help the dog into positions or they already 'know' (to a degree) the command. It can help you improve sloppily learned commands.

    2) Free shaping. This is the round about way of doing it that you let the dog work out what you want. I dont advocate free shaping to new people as it can be confusing if your timing is even a little off or you dont have a lot of experience. Basically you click as the dog gradually performs to the eventual behavior you want it to do.

    I use markers for my dogs and at dog school, we just use 'YES' as its easier for people to do then juggle treats, clicker, leash etc. It really does help cement the dogs focus and behaviors.

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    One more thing...I phase the clicker out as soon as the dog knows what we are doing..i only use it for new stuff and/or when I want them to know at a distance what i think is the right thing for them to have done. Like in the send away or when i send my dogs out to retrieve an item in the water. And i always reward with the clicker, maybe not every click (charged) but I do reward (not always food either)
    Pets are forever

  10. #10
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    Yes, there are certain things that are best just rewarded and not clicked or marked... because the click/yes word or whatever noise you choose - usually gets the dog's attention on you for a treat...

    Clickers are also very good for precision things, but not so good if you're trying for a series of actions ie walking is a bunch of stuff, not just one thing like lifting up a paw.

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