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why not clicker training?

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  • why not clicker training?

    i just saw a negative remark about clicker training............i have never tried it, but "try clicker training" seems to be a pretty common response to many cat,dog,equine issues.........

    i do NOT have an opinion about it either way, as i am not knowledgable enough to have an opinion........lol.........

    but, i am curious, and would like opinions/experience from others..........so, enlighten me please?

  • #2
    I resisted because I resist everything new. Phaha! Taurus do not like change. I thought or assumed it was gimmicky, fad-dy, and a new piece of plastic presented as a silver bullet for all your training woes. I am kinda an old school DQ.

    When I researched more and more, it has been used for decades by animal trainers especially in marines and exotics.

    I did not want to have to constantly carry around extra tool so I substituted a tongue click. That is half-a$$ed clicker training but better than yank&crank. Now I use the tool when introducing a new skill or working on a specific issue. On daily walks I can apply the conditioning and skills learned through clicker training without having the clicker physically on me.

    Give it a whirl!


    • #3
      It's fun, it's amazing how fast you can get some dogs (and cats and horses) to learn things, and it's great to keep a dog's brain engaged at times when they can't physically wear themselves out. And mental exercise can be as satisfying to them as physical, so when the weather's foul or they're injured, it can come in handy.

      It does NOT (if done correctly) teach them that you are a pez dispenser for treats, the exact opposite, actually. It's fun to watch them work stuff out when you start to expand the training.

      Check it out and give it a try. If it's not for you then just don't continue, you won't to any harm.


      • #4
        Why not?
        I would say, if not done properly, it could "create a monster" , a pushy dog/horse/ cat always begging and mugging for treats.
        If done properly however, it is a fun thing to do with your dog when you are inside on a cold winter day. Good for "tricks" as well as for "obedience" behaviors.
        "When life gives you scurvy, make lemonade."


        • #5
          What's not to like about clicker training? It does not even have to involve food, you can you a toy or getting access to something else the dog values, it need not be food (although food is often used because it is usually valued and it is easy).

          Clicker training is not a cult. It just means you pair a sound (which does not have to be a click, and does not have to be a sound for that matter, could be a light flash or whatever) with some kind of positive reinforcement (again, need not be food) to "mark" a behavior that you want to increase in frequency. It just conveys "what you are doing in this instant in time is something it will pay you to do again".

          It is used in many contexts, from training big independent animals you can't "dominate" or punish who must work reliably at a distance doing complicated behaviors, to improving the athletic performance of human athletes.

          I will be fascinated to read why someone believes this powerful tool should not be used, or perhaps it is beleived it just should not be used with dogs.....I cannot imagine the reasoning but would be quite interested to hear it.


          • #6
            It has worked well for me with the corgi collection. I started with Tempi at five weeks of age (homebred puppy) and by eight weeks she was solid on sit, stand, down, and come. Daily two minute session.


            • #7
              The thing I liked about it with the wolfhounds was with " conventional" training, even if it was reward-based, they will shut down in many circumstances. However, with clicker training, they will actually expand their repertoire of behaviors, rather than limit them. You can always tell which have been clicker trained by their happy demeanor and the fact that they will actually offer behaviors.

              They also use clicker training in zoo and lab animals, for example to get them to present their arms (flippers, etc) for blood samples.


              • #8
                So...why is this not a good thing?


                • #9
                  it is a good thing.. but many people have done it a certain way for soo long,( generations) so they are resistant to change.

                  I love it. Like any time you pick up a new training philosophy it takes time to totally get it and incorporate it fully. But bad clicker training might create a dog that's a little confused or a treat hound. However bad yank and crank old school style negative reinforcement style training can result in fearful dogs that become aggressive and bite. WOrlds of difference.


                  • Original Poster

                    LOL..it was mentioned in a hegative way in a respone to the "fearful dog" post here, and someone else i asked for advice with regard to donkey behavior told me she USED clicker training with great success, but did not post about it on the forum for fear of negative feedback...........

                    sooooo, i got the impression that it was largely not well liked, and wondered why.................as i said, i don't know enough about it to make a judgement call, but hadn't encountered anything that i felt was negative,,,,,,,,however, i am NOT a trainer , even by "just an owner" standards, so thought i ws missing something.....


                    • #11
                      I think that clicker training has gained such popularity in very recent years that many associate it with "Drinking the Koolaide" So based upon its popularness peopel were wary of it as a training option.

                      I think that when done wrong, clicker trainers can end up with a treat houd, a dog with no boundaries b/c the owner associates clicker trainign with saying yes all the time. Many newbies don't understand the concept of consequences.... and that when you are clicker training there are consequences for making the wrong decision.


                      • #12
                        I'm all for a mixture of types of training depending on individuals and situations.

                        I've played with clicker training a bit with our greyhound - it works nicely for her because she's very aloof and hard to motivate. The clicker adds power to the treats for her and keeps her interest better while learning. Now, I haven't done a ton with her, but I think it can be a good fit for a lot of people and animals. One nice thing about it with dogs is that even if you mess up, you're usually just going to get a semi-confused dog or perhaps one that's a little too into your treats. Still, that's better than what can happen when you misuse certain types of corrections.

                        Overall, people who don't have a natural knack with dogs may have trouble with any kind of training and might find clicker training a little more user friendly and harder to mess up? Just a theory, haha.

                        I think an interesting book is Karen Pryor's "Reaching the Animal Mind." She does describe some of the science behind the method and why it seems to create a stronger association than just a treat as a reward. The click marking the exact moment of the proper behavior helps the learning process. Her anecdotes also add some really interesting examples to pique interest.

                        Lastly, if you can clicker train a lion in a zoo to come up to the cage and present a hip for a shot, I'm thinking it can have it's uses.


                        • #13
                          I am a dedicated clicker trainer. That said, I don't actually think it's all that "user-friendly" if by user, you mean the trainer.

                          It's actually FAR more easy for the animal, and FAR more difficult for the trainer.

                          It requires education and application of behavioral concepts (some of which are subtle and counter-intuitive), precision, consistency, timing, physical skills, intense self-discipline and a training plan.

                          For all that, you get a lion that will come up and present a hip for a shot. Not bad.

                          It's utterly awesome. You can indeed screw it up, and still have a willing and cooperative animal. It opens a line of communication you never knew was there. But then you will find that you have an animal really wants to interact with you, and that's actually more than a lot of people can cope with, it turns out.

                          So I do think there are reasons that certain people probably wouldn't make great clicker (or positive reinforcement) trainers. They fail, because they don't take the time to educate themselves, and then go around saying it's just giving treats and spoiling animals.

                          In fact, this is how you can be sure someone doesn't have a clue about clicker training, when they say it's "just bribing."
                          Ring the bells that still can ring
                          Forget your perfect offering
                          There is a crack in everything
                          That's how the light gets in.


                          • #14
                            I rescued an 8 week old purebred cattle dog last wednesday. He was found in the middle of the worlds busiest intersection. There are no homes in that area, so one has to ask how he got there. I wonder if it is because he is a typical cattle dog puppy? He's intelligent, VERY energetic, creative, busy, mouthy (and with really, really sharp teeth. ouch), and has a bit of a temper. I have come to the conclusion that someone wasn't quite ready for an extremely high energy, sharp dog with the intelligence to outthink half the town.

                            In two days with clicker training, I taught him how NOT to mug me for treat (i.e. you don't take food out of my hand unless I say so), how to sit, come when called, and do a hand touch. In one week, he will leave loose food (on the table, on my knee, on the floor, etc) and wait for me to click and treat him with something else (usually better!). He lays down, will move to touch my hand, sits before eating and going outside, and pees outside (working on poo!).

                            Clicker training is an amazing and powerful way to train. I don't know why one wouldn't want too. I was at an obedience trial a couple of weeks ago, and you could easily see the dogs that were trained with positive reinforcement and those that weren't. The P+ dogs were happy, engaged, and eager to work. The "yank and crank dogs", not so much. When mistakes were made, the P+ trainers just laughed it off and went back to work, the traditional trainers made excuses like "he's just showing his a$$", "he's a jerk", "he's stubborn", and blamed the dog. I saw one lovely golden retriever in the utility ring who was turning himself inside out to do what his owner wanted. When he accidentally picked up the wrong scent article, he looked at his owner and bolted across the ring, obviously terrified. It was really kind of sad.

                            I can't say I'm a perfect trainer, I don't know if I do it right or not, but my dogs don't "mug" for treats. Half the time they work without treats. My puppy is perfectly happy to work for food or for his toy or even for a happy bouncy squeely session.

                            Oh, and I have to say, I don't use a clicker. I have coordination issues. I use the word "good" said in a very distinctive way to mark the behaviors I want. So you don't really need to carry a clicker around, you just need to be consistant.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Houndhill View Post
                              So...why is this not a good thing?
                              Most objections I've seen/heard boil down to: if you teach the dog to make choices, (s)he will know how to make choices that the handler finds undesirable.

                              I think that's the start of a conversation, not the end, but I understand how hard it can be to believe it's not an opportunity for disaster, especially if you've come up through a system that relies on the handler doing the thinking while the dog obeys.

                              "The present tense of regret is indecision."
                              - Welcome to Night Vale


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Tucked_Away View Post
                                Most objections I've seen/heard boil down to: if you teach the dog to make choices, (s)he will know how to make choices that the handler finds undesirable.

                                I think that's the start of a conversation, not the end, but I understand how hard it can be to believe it's not an opportunity for disaster, especially if you've come up through a system that relies on the handler doing the thinking while the dog obeys.
                                I do think dogs make choices whatever the training method. With some methods, making a choice the trainer does not agree with may lead to punishment, and the dog may then learn to avoid that behavior. However, this may have other, unintended consequences.

                                Clicker training is simply a term commonly used to mean a type of operant conditioning, and need not involve either a clicker or food. It does involve using a "marker" like a sound, flash of light, etc., and a source of positive reinforcement, such as food, tug toy, ball, or access to a valued resource such as working sheep if the dog values that, or birds, etc.

                                You are right that it does not involve physical compulsion, but does often use "shaping" to affect behavior, where criteria as to what behavior is reinforced are changed in small steps.

                                But the dog is making choices regardless of the system of training. We do not really know what the dog is thinking, but we cannot assume he or she is not thinking anything.


                                • #17
                                  I have worked with dogs for many, many years. I compete in agility and rally. I dont use a clicker, it just doesn't fit with me. I hate carrying it, trying to find it ect ect..... I have a bunch of all types. That said, I think it does have a place in training. Like everything it has to fit the person, the person has to fit it. Part of the reason it gets a bad rap is some people go out and get a dog and a clicker and think they can train it because they have the clicker. When that doesn't work, and it won't, it is the clicker methods fault.


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by MelantheLLC View Post
                                    I am a dedicated clicker trainer. That said, I don't actually think it's all that "user-friendly" if by user, you mean the trainer.

                                    It's actually FAR more easy for the animal, and FAR more difficult for the trainer.

                                    It requires education and application of behavioral concepts (some of which are subtle and counter-intuitive), precision, consistency, timing, physical skills, intense self-discipline and a training plan.

                                    For all that, you get a lion that will come up and present a hip for a shot. Not bad.

                                    This is a more articulate version of my feelings about clicker training for the "masses"... I am not a professional trainer to any degree, but I have a lot of experience with it, and with horse training, cat training, hamster training... you know

                                    In my experience, the average Joe dog owner really does not have the skill set in place to load the clicker properly. I'm talking about people who have never had animals before, or view their animals as "just an animal" and have no desire to delve deeper into their pets' psyche; people who just do not "get" animals, despite loving them. Failure to properly load/use the clicker can result in the treat mugging described in some posts; it can also result in absolutely nothing, causing a short attention span/fuse having owner to throw up their hands and declare their animal "untrainable". For THOSE people, steady classes with an experienced trainer will be much, much simpler. THOSE people generally want a dog who sits, lays and comes on command; those features are relatively simple to install with very basic training and do not really require a handler to learn an entirely new skill set replete with exquisite timing and comprehension necessities.

                                    I think clicker training is a great tool for a more experienced trainer/handler and a valuable resource for enthusiastic, committed owners who are interested in going beyond sit/down/come. I also find it to be an unnecessary and often frustrating thing to throw at joe schmoe when all he wants is a dog who sits when asked to, and that frustration often causes a more casual owner to just give up. Why complicate things for those owners?
                                    bar.ka think u al.l. susp.ect
                                    free bar.ka and tidy rabbit


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Houndhill View Post
                                      But the dog is making choices regardless of the system of training.
                                      Sure. Dogs are dogs, not rocks. I didn't say otherwise; I referred to the human's systems and philosophies, not the inner workings of the dog.

                                      "The present tense of regret is indecision."
                                      - Welcome to Night Vale


                                      • #20
                                        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.....we were in definite need of an adult beverage afterward!

                                        I have not taught a group class for some time, but have had pretty good success in working with people one-on-one, teaching them clicker training or other operant techniques. I have also been in many classes and seminars that use either clicker training or some other form of operant conditioning, and really do not find that people have a more difficult time learning it. We had a pretty high drop out rate back in the day....I will say that I think people now have shorter attention spans, and expect less of their dogs in some ways now. It is my impression that fewer seem willing to put in the time and effort that they used to.

                                        Of course there are many, many ways to teach a dog to sit, down, come, and walk on a loose lead. I like to teach people to teach their dogs in a positive way that will help them create a wonderful, lasting relationship with their dog.