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why not clicker training?

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  • #21
    I totally agree that it's not the clicker that is crucial, but "clicker training" has unfortunately ended up as the catch-all term for positive reinforcement methods.

    What new dog owners (and anyone who deals with animals) SHOULD be taught, from the start, is the principles of operant conditioning.

    There's no difference between traditional methods and "clicker training" except that one uses positive reinforcement and the other uses negative reinforcement (hopefully vs punishment).

    Just pointing out to new pet owners that teaching their dog to sit by pushing down on its rump works because they STOP pushing down when the dog sits---that's a pretty simple concept that most people can understand. Teaching the owner to STOP popping the leash when the dog has a loose lead--and emphasizing that the dog is learning from the timing of the STOP, rather than from the popping itself, I think even new trainers can get it intellectually. Developing the timing is a skill, but if it's pointed out that the timing is the crucial part, not the popping, then the traditional training will be more effective.

    But it's seldom overtly taught.

    Negative reinforcement is a perfectly valid and effective method of training. When you see how much more motivation and commitment you get from positive reinforcement, you tend to want to stick with it, but sometimes it's frankly simpler to go with NR, ie pressure/release--with the proviso that you understand what you're doing.

    On edit: actually I was wrong to say the ONLY difference between "clicker" and traditional training is PR vs NR. The addition of the marker is a significant difference and significant advantage of PR/clicker.
    Ring the bells that still can ring
    Forget your perfect offering
    There is a crack in everything
    That's how the light gets in.

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    • #22
      I resisted at first, until I realized how effective it was for Sheldon to train Penny and then started using it on the vet interns at work.

      Halfway kidding, I didn't use it until we ran into some super fustrating agility training issues with my boy and had to communicate non verbally with him. It took 5 min and he was running the dog walk without me by his side. Since then I have been a big fan. I really like that it lets me convey when I am displeased by not clicking as opposed to a more negative verbal command.

      It is also very useful for interns as long as you can play it off as a joke lol. And carry good candy....
      You can't fix stupid.... but you can breed it!

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      • #23
        I was thinking of doing this with my pup when I started working with him on agility / obedience stuff. I took him to classes to get started and there were 6 or 7 dogs in the same room - and one woman was doing the clicker thing.

        It occurred to me that in a group situation like that, wouldn't it be confusing for the dog ? I mean they're hearing the clicks at all sorts of random times (for what my dog is doing) in close proximity. Wouldn't it be harder to 'mark' a behavior properly when someone else is using the clicker w their dog ?

        For now, I using small high-value treats when in class. This pup is not a total treat monster and won't mug me for treats, he is interested but actually pretty polite about it.

        Has anyone else had experience with this ? Was it NOT confusing for the dog ?

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        • #24
          I think it's awesome. I've used it on my dogs, my horse (who came to me not knowing and therefore terrified of blankets) and my macaws. IMO the issues people have with it might include;

          1. Not understanding how it works and making assumptions that it's bribery. And if you don't understand it you can create a monster (horse for example) who mugs you for food.

          2. Not understanding that it's only operant conditioning. Once you get it you'll realize it's a different approach to training and you don't need a clicker. The clicker is a learning tool for you more than your target animal in alot of ways.

          3. Guilt? When I learned CT I felt like apologizing to my first dog for the choke chain pop. After a bit I just took it as learning a new thing and moving on, but some folks can't face that.

          JMO
          Paula
          He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).

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          • #25
            As to the use of a clicker in a group situation - no it really shouldn't be a problem.

            Even though the clickers sound the same to us, a dog's hearing is sensitive enough to tell the difference between clickers. Also, when your dog is focused on you, the interaction with you outweighs the random clicks from across the room. I wouldn't introduce clicker work in a group setting, and I do 're-load' the clicker I'm using if I'm going to be in a group with another clicker user, but other than that I've not had a problem with it. I also don't use one every time I work with my dog, but I do use it to help teach a new skill, or polish up an old one.

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            • #26
              I've never seen any confusion working multiple dogs and handlers with clickers...as saje points out the clickers may sound different to the dogs, and they also may be picking up on the difference between where the sound comes from, localizing where their click comes from. I also have (and seen many others) work their own multiple dogs with the same clicker in their presence, and that works too. They can figure out when the clicker is "talking" to them, just as they can with your voice.

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              • #27
                Originally posted by paulaedwina View Post
                I think it's awesome. I've used it on my dogs, my horse (who came to me not knowing and therefore terrified of blankets) and my macaws. IMO the issues people have with it might include;

                1. Not understanding how it works and making assumptions that it's bribery. And if you don't understand it you can create a monster (horse for example) who mugs you for food.

                2. Not understanding that it's only operant conditioning. Once you get it you'll realize it's a different approach to training and you don't need a clicker. The clicker is a learning tool for you more than your target animal in alot of ways.
                Great post!

                You will get the behavior you reward, so if mugging for treats works, of course the animal is going to do it, and if it doesn't work for them, they won't.

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                • #28
                  The reason clicker training was laughable IMO was because when I watched people do it, it was clickclickclickclickclick, clicking all the time with terrible timing. AIEEEEE. It was the same reaction I have to people with a dog that already knows what SIT means, and the handler is saying. Sit. Sit. Sit. Sit now. Sit. SIT. SIT.

                  Timing. Timing is everything in clicker training and very few people do it right, so it's annoying to those of us who DO have good timing.

                  Anyway, I made fun of clicker training and then I thought well, that's not fair, try it yourself and THEN make fun of it if it's still crappy. But instead of going to a class I got Karen Pryor's book. Figured I'd learn from the source because all these mis-timed clickclickclick people might not be the Way and the Truth.

                  And guess what? Just like religion, going to the source is entirely different than being taught by some of the adherents.

                  You can get great results with clicker training. It's fun, many dogs seem to love it, and it can definitely be a great training tool.

                  It's great for distance training, for when the animal is working away from you or with its back to you, and as others have said, for things like reducing negative verbal reinforcers because the negative is simply "no click." When dogs are smoothly working in clicker training, they're working like this: "What can I do to make her click?" The click is the reward. And you can give it Instantly, instantaneous with the behavior you want. Tossing a treat isn't that fast. So we're shaping their behavior and in their doggy minds they're shaping ours. "When I do this, she clicks. Yay!"

                  I use it mainly for trick training. Very easy to quickly teach fun tricks that stay taught.

                  Also used it successfully for an over-reactive dog I adopted from the dog pound. He LOVES the clicker.

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                  • #29
                    Originally posted by Anne FS View Post
                    I use it mainly for trick training. Very easy to quickly teach fun tricks that stay taught.
                    as one very good trainer said to me, it's all tricks

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                    • #30
                      EVERYONE I've met who has had a "negative" opinion about clicker training usually quickly reveals they know diddly-squat about it, and their "negative" opinion is based on a complete misconception about it or how it works.

                      Even if you don't ever pick up a clicker, one of the really wonderful side-effects of clicker training is it has exposed the masses to the scientific concepts of behavioral modification- reinforcement and punishment, extinction, conditioning, timing and feedback. If you've ever raised a child, had a boss, been a boss, owned a pet, or ridden a horse, understanding these concepts is important.

                      Because whether you are aware of it or not, you are USING and having USED ON YOU these principles. Becoming aware of what you are doing is the first step towards being able to improve what you doing, or at least being able to understand why what your boss is doing is making you miserable.

                      The best introduction to these basic principles is still Karen Pryor's old, short paperback called "Don't Shoot the Dog". I think this should be required reading in elementary school for everyone- the world would be a better place.



                      I use it mainly for trick training. Very easy to quickly teach fun tricks that stay taught.
                      from the dog's point of view it's all tricks.

                      All of the "traditional" methods of training basic manners and obedience have a niggling problem that these methods tend to inhibit your dog from learning new or different behaviors in future. For example, if you spend a lot of time teaching your dog to heel by punishing any attempt by the dog to leave heel position (collar pops), it shouldn't surprise you at all that you're going to have serious difficulty teaching the dog to do the go-out or the retrieve, and might also have trouble teaching the dog to do a stay at a distance- after all, you taught the dog that it's not safe to be away from you. You shot yourself in the foot with your chosen method of the moment.
                      Clicker training doesn't have that problem- the more you clicker train a dog, the easier it gets to train new behaviors. The more you punish a dog, the harder it gets to train new behaviors.
                      Sometimes you get severe fallout from "traditional" training- for example, the horrible ear-pinch method used to get dogs to take the dumbell. Not unusual to end up with a dog who flees in terror at the mere sight or scent of a dumbell after experiencing that just once. Or many a person has accidentally taught their dog to be afraid of strangers after using punishment to stop a dog from jumping up in greeting; many a person has created a leash-reactive dog by giving a harsh collar correction when the dog tried to approach another dog.

                      One mis-timed or overly severe punishment can permanently alter your dog's behavior for the worse forever.

                      The worst thing that can happen with clicker-training is the dog fails to get trained.
                      Last edited by wendy; Nov. 13, 2012, 12:10 PM.

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                      • #31
                        Originally posted by wendy View Post
                        their "negative" opinion is based on a complete misconception about it or how it works.
                        Agree that many don't know about it, but as I said in my post, my initial negativity was from watching people clicker train and completely botching it, and these were people at obedience training facilities so were supposed to know what they were doing. Which is why I decided to learn about it myself.

                        Originally posted by wendy View Post
                        All of the "traditional" methods of training basic manners and obedience have a niggling problem that these methods tend to inhibit your dog from learning new or different behaviors in future. For example, if you spend a lot of time teaching your dog to heel by punishing any attempt by the dog to leave heel position (collar pops), it shouldn't surprise you at all that you're going to have serious difficulty teaching the dog to do the go-out or the retrieve, and might also have trouble teaching the dog to do a stay at a distance- after all, you taught the dog that it's not safe to be away from you. You shot yourself in the foot with your chosen method of the moment.
                        Disagree that all training but clicker training teaches inhibitions. REALLY disagree. The paragraph above is simply not how good training is done and is emphatically not the result of training other than clicker training. Poor training, yes. But I've got a houseful of extremely happy & enthusiastic working dogs that have been trained w/o clickers, have zero inhibitions, and work both close to me and at a distance (try doing Schutzhund with a dog that feels it's not safe to leave your side). My dogs have dynamite go-outs and I refuse to accept that they were trained by "crank-and-yank" methods simply because I didn't click at them.

                        Originally posted by wendy View Post
                        their "negative" opinion is based on a complete misconception about it or how it works.
                        Your example of the ear-pinch method for the dumbbell is the same, though. That has a horrible reputation because of people's complete misconception about how to use it. No one has patience anymore. The famous Koehler obedience books that are vilified for advocating the ear-pinch method insist on thoroughly kindly, patiently, and painlessly teaching the dog what is wanted before ever ever administering a physical correction. If you see someone who is grabbing ears and pinching, you are guaranteed they didn't do their foundation training properly at all. Very few have the patience to spend the long time of training with never a correction that Koehler insists on.

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                        • #32
                          Originally posted by Houndhill View Post
                          Had to laugh remembering the difficulty of teaching a roomful of Average Joes, thirty years ago in a group beginning obedience class, traditional methods.....I do not think it was any easier! A roomful of novice dog owners and dogs who had never been to a class, calling out "Loose lead! Loose lead!" even after many demonstrations.....
                          Now the cry is "ONE! click one treat. ONE click!!" Avg Joe thinks his dog 1. is pre-conditioned to the clicker like a tv to a remote and 2. knows Morse code. Click click click click click click..." AGHhhh pass the tequila.

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                          • #33
                            Originally posted by Bicoastal View Post
                            Now the cry is "ONE! click one treat. ONE click!!" Avg Joe thinks his dog 1. is pre-conditioned to the clicker like a tv to a remote and 2. knows Morse code. Click click click click click click..." AGHhhh pass the tequila.

                            That is so funny!

                            Ah, the learning curve! Wish people were as easy to teach as dogs/horses/chickens!!

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                            • #34
                              My dogs have dynamite go-outs and I refuse to accept that they were trained by "crank-and-yank" methods simply because I didn't click at them.
                              ? yes, there are actually many other methods of training dogs that are neither punishment-based nor use clickers. Perhaps you used one of those methods. Hopefully you KNOW what method you used. Since you don't say.

                              Since schutzhund requires the dogs to exhibit drive and enthusiasm, you don't usually see the really heavy-handed type of yank n spank training that you'll frequently see in regular formal obedience training, or sadly, often see in pet-dog training. Some schutzhund people today use predominantly positive reinforcement in their training, with or without the overt use of clickers. Others use a mix of positive reinforcement and punishment. Others use mostly negative reinforcement via ecollars.

                              It is certainly possible to teach dogs to have dynamite go-outs even if you do use punishment-based methods. Particularly if you're training certain hard high-drive breeds. The kind of breeds that are traditionally used in schutzhund and formal obedience.

                              People who are used to training hard high-drive dogs are often the ones that scoff the most at the advantages of clicker training over "traditional" punishment-based methods, and refuse to believe that many dogs really do suffer from serious adverse side effects from punishments- because they haven't seen the way many soft or non-working breed type dogs respond to aversives. If you give your hard high-drive working breed dog a hard collar-pop he'll barely notice and will keep eagerly working for you; if you give a hound a hard collar pop he'll probably just quit on you. Possibly forever.

                              There's a reason why certain breeds are considered to be "stubborn" or "difficult to train" and it's because they don't respond well to punishment-based training. How many hound-dogs or basenjis have been successfully taught to retrieve using ear-pinches? very few. But I can clicker-train a hound to retrieve with great enthusiasm and reliability in just a few days of work. Never tried with a basenji, but I'd bet they'd pick it up even faster.

                              However, all dogs respond remarkably well to clicker training. Hard high-drive dogs, soft low-drive dogs, they all learn faster and with more enthusiasm in response to clickers than in response to collar-pops.

                              If you've never owned an experienced clicker dog, you won't quite understand the primary advantage of this method of training is that the more you train the dog the faster the dog learns and the more enthusiastic the dog gets about training and working with you. That simply is not true for dogs who have been punished a lot- punishment suppresses drive and inhibits/blocks future learning. It's just a fact of how the brain works.

                              You kind of have to see it or experience it to grasp how different the learning speed and enthusiasm is for an experienced clicker-dog vs. a punished dog.
                              For example, how long does it take the average person to teach a go-out after spending a lot of time punishing the dog for leaving heel position? A long, difficult time. I personally believe it's considered a difficult exercise only because of the inhibitor effect of the punishments traditionally used to teach the beginner exercises like heel. Because it's really easy to teach if you don't use punishment to teach heel. Just last week we were training something else in agility class, and I thought being able to do a classic go-out would be helpful, so I spent five minutes teaching the dog to do the go-out and sit, and we then proceeded to use that go-out in our training. I didn't realize until later that the dog had been flawlessly peforming the so-called "advanced" go out and directed jumping exercise after only five minutes of training. A week later I asked the dog to do it, and the dog didn't even hesitate and whipped through the exercise.

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                              • #35
                                Originally posted by Houndhill View Post
                                Ah, the learning curve! Wish people were as easy to teach as dogs/horses/chickens!!
                                THIS. And this is where I think clicker training can be amazingly useful to so many people, whether they are working with dogs or horses. Look at it from the animal's point of view: The human who teaches the association between clicker and treat teaches the animals that the clicker sound = a YES signal and praise. And it's PERFECTLY CLEAR, each time. Let's face it, we humans do not always have perfect timing, for a variety of reasons. In my dog-training days I was constantly meeting people who were frustrated by dogs that did not respond to "down" or that would drop for two seconds and then pop up like a jack-in-the-box. Most of those folks were saying "DOWN" and then saying "Good dog" and treating when the dog was already on its way back up - so no surprise that the dogs all concluded that what their owners valued was the getting-up part of the action. Similarly, I see a lot of horse owners who say "Back" or "Over" and then praise and/or treat AFTER the desired action - thus convincing their horses that what their owners really want them to do is stop moving. For me, the clicker is just a great way to teach animal owners to offer consistent, instantly understandable affirmation and praise at the moment when the desired activity is taking place. This makes learning so much easier and so much quicker... really, I would hope that anyone interested in improving their training skills would give it a try. If you're one of the few lucky people who have super-quick reflexes and are able to train using perfect timing and a consistent "Yes" word and tone of voice, clicker training will be very much like your everyday method. If you're one of the rest of us, whether you're training a horse or a dog, the clicker could make the training process much more fun.
                                Home page: www.jessicajahiel.com
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                                • #36
                                  wendy, I simply pointed out that I disagreed with your take on traditional training methods and totally disagree with you that a collar pop convinces a dog "that it's not safe to be away from you" and therefore it won't hold a Stay. There is a world of difference between teaching that the "Heel" command means don't leave my side and "You Must Never Leave My Side Even When I Tell You To."

                                  We do agree that poor training of whatever type can result in an unhappy dog.

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                                  • #37
                                    Good post, Pasde2. Some people with practice can get the timing better on the clicker than with voice, too, which is pretty much what you said.

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                                    • #38
                                      Clicker is awesome. I don't see any negatives. those who think the horse becomes a beast around treats simply do not grasp that you teach them NOT to mug you for treats as one of the first lessons. When they turn away they get a click and a treat. My husband is a great clicker trainer. for our horses and for our dogs.

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                                      • #39
                                        I think the biggest challenges in CT occur when trying to break a bad behavior. The principle is, of course, ignore (don't pay) bad behavior. The problem is enduring the extinction burst.

                                        Paula
                                        He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).

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