Sunday, March 30, 2008

Clicker Training

I have been Clicker Training for quiet some time now. I started with my horse, but did not use a clicker. I had a marker word, "Good". It was amazing how well it worked. I did not use it a whole lot. Only when we were on a trail and Jack stepped over some tough obstacles. Note: Jack was blind and he would have to concentrate on my jiggles with the reigns and carefully feel for a secure step.
I would say good boy and he would stop, turn his head to the right and I would lean over and give him a piece of carrot. Way Cool!!

My first dog I clicker trained was Rylie. I did not start out with a clicker, however, the first time I tried it I was hooked. Raygen, Ryker and Ryddick are all clicker trained and I got better with each dog. There are several ways of training with a clicker: Shaping, Luring, Targeting, Capturing.
Depending on what I am trying to train I use all three.
Shaping is for dogs and handlers that are a bit more clicker savvy. It is also called the Thorndike Method. Wait for a behavior to happen, reward the behavior, add a cue while the behavior is happening.
Start by making a plan (in your head). Visualize how the end behavior looks like and break it down into many smaller steps. For example... End behavior is a nose touch to your hand... present the hand near the dogs nose and even the tiniest movement (ear, nose, eyes, muscle) gets a click and a treat (c/t). Sooner or later the dog will figure out that you want his nose to touch the hand.
Some trainers have been rushing Shaping and the steps in training are to big. Kay Laurence, master clicker trainer, started to give it a new name.... micro-shaping. That way nobody can say they didn't understand how small the steps were supposed to be.

Luring is another fun way to train with the clicker. A behavior that I teach using the lure method is "crawl". Dog is in a down. I then put a treat in between the dogs legs and slowly pull it away form the dog. As soon as the dog makes the slightest move forward while still on the down, c/t. If you wait to long to c/t, the dog may get up or give up. Add distance an inch at a time. It is important to fade the lure quickly or the dog will get treat dependent.

Targeting should not be mistaken with luring. I have trained Ryddick's heeling with a target stick.
First you train the dog to touch the target with his nose. When the nose touch is very nice, slowly add movement and have the dog follow the stick. Then have the stick in heel position and start moving forward and c/t as soon as dog keeps up with the stick and you. Then you stop suing the stick and start adding the cue for heeling when the dog is in a heel position. It is pretty simple and you can get some very nice heeling.

Capturing takes patience and sometimes can take a long time. Ryker will scratch himself on cue. Raygen will sneeze on cue. Rylie will kick her rear legs on cue. Ryddick will bow on cue. All behaviors that I have captured. The dog does the behavior on its own and you c/t. If you don't have a clicker handy use a marker word and treat. I pretty much don't use the clicker to long and add a verbal cue very early on.

Clicker training has been around for many years and is a very effective way to communicate with your dog. There are no corrections clicker training. All you do is c/t the behavior you want and ignore the behaviors that you don't. If clicker training did not work for you, then you did not do it right.


Anonymous said...

Great Blog! - MikeSmithMCSE

Maggie said...

I never knew that there were diffences in Clicker Training. Thanks for being so informative.