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What is Clicker Training? September 22, 2011

What is clicker training?

A positive reinforcement training technique using a primary and secondary reinforcer that includes shaping so the dog takes an active role in the training process. Primary reinforcer is the treat. Secondary reinforcer is the click.

Advantages of clicker training:

Clicker training provides clear concise information for the dog. It has a unique sound that stands out to the dog. Timing is easier than voice for most students and lessens unneeded chatter at the dog.

Clicker training creates an enthusiastic working dog. The dog learns quickly because he is an active participant in the learning process through the use of shaping and high rate of reinforcement.

This is an excellent technique for team training that gets more of the family involved. It’s a technique that is easily transferable from person to person. It does not rely on social status, strength or intimidation, like some other techniques.

Clicker training is fun. Students quickly start to focus on their dog’s brilliance. They learn they have a ‘smart’ dog. Classes tend to be quieter so there is less noise and a nicer training environment.

Facts and myths about clicker training:

It is more difficult for pet owners to learn. Not true! If the curriculum and classes are properly designed and organized, beginners do as well at learning to use the clicker as with other techniques. Once people try it, they are hooked. The instructor’s commitment and presentation make all the difference!

You need the clicker forever – Not true! You wean away once your dog has learned the behavior. You can fall back on the clicker for refresher training any time.

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Polite Greetings – September 14, 2011

The doorbell provides instant reward for many dogs. When it rings they bound toward it, barking furiously…scaring whoever is at the door. That human response is the reward. It’s even more fun to bark at a postal carrier or delivery person — and watch them run away!

To modify this behavior, or to stop it before it starts, change the reward to one you can control.

• Provide yourself with some rather delicious treats and put a leash on your dog. Have a friend prepare to come to your door many times. When the doorbell rings, pull Duke towards you, make him sit and give him a treat. This may be quite difficult if he’s already discovered how much fun it is to bark at doorbells.

• Do it again…and again. Don’t yell, scream or hit the dog…just reward the proper behavior. What you’re aiming for is an association between the sound of the doorbell and a treat.

• Once you have that association, take the process one step further. When the doorbell rings, answer it (with Duke on a leash). When he sees the visitor, tell him to sit, and give him a treat. After a few more repetitions and a few more practice sessions, you have a dog who is interested in guests, alerts to their presence, but isn’t out of control.

• Now begin withdrawing the treat, only giving it when he gives you a spectacular performance.

• Alternatively, if you wish the dog to like visitors, provide them with the treat.
So you have this progression:

• The doorbell rings

• You and the dog go to the door

• The dog sits

• You open the door

• You or your visitor gives him a treat and praise

• The dog is released

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Taking Treats Nicely – September 7, 2011

Some dogs are very grabby or mouthy when taking treats and it is difficult to use treats for teaching new behaviors if your dog hurts you every time they take a treat. You must separately teach them to take treats nicely – do not try to do this at the same time you are training a new behavior and using food rewards.

One way to teach your dog to take treats nicely is to hand feed their first 20-30 pieces of kibble and teach them to take it gently. Don’t ask for any other behavior as you do this.

Another method is to teach them to lick for treats using the “fist of Kong” method:

1. Put a smear of peanut butter or cream cheese in the palm of your hand.
2. Make a fist and then relax you hand and move your thumb so that there is an opening near your thumb. You hand should be shaped like a kong.
3. Present your hand to the dog.
4. The dog will sniff and then use their tongue to get to the stuff in your fist. When the dog licks your hand, click (if you use a clicker) and then open your fist and allow him to take another lick or two.

After the dog gets the pattern, you can transition to solid foods, by using a peanut butter smear and also put a treat in your hand. When he licks, open your hand and let he eat the treat. The treat should be presented in a open hand with the treat resting on your palm (don’t present a treat between the finger tips).

In case where you can’t outlast the dog because he is chewing your fist, remove the fist, turn your back and walk away for 5 seconds. It might be necessary to tether the dog so that you can walk away. This doesn’t happen all that often because most dogs quickly learn that they can lick the peanut butter. For the first rep, present an open hand – this makes it more likely that he’ll lick when you present the fist (and it tests whether he’ll be interested in the smear you are using).

Once you’ve started doing this, use the lick for treats method for delivering treats while doing other training. So when you deliver a treat when luring a sit, use the fist of Kong.

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How Dogs Learn

Here are some reminders of how your dog or puppy learns and levels of difficulty as you provide more challenge:

• Dogs repeat behaviors that are rewarding and avoid behaviors that are not
• Dogs don’t generalize – you need to re-teach in new places with new distractions
• Dogs learn by the consequences of their actions – ie, reward vs. ignore
• You have control of everything your dog likes/wants
• You can use that power to train your dog
• Training = controlling the consequences of your dog’s actions
• Rewards, timing and consistency are the keys to learning
• Dogs must be allowed to succeed = getting the reward
• This requires observation and judgment for ‘rewardable’ behavior
• This requires patience and increasing difficulty in small increments

REMEMBER
• Whatever you reward/train now will be the behavior you get when your puppy grows up
• You get what you pet. You raise what you praise.

Order of Training
• First GET the behavior – no English!
• Use luring, capturing or shaping to get the behavior
• Quickly remove lure but consistently reward
• Then add the cue as the behavior happens (when you know it WILL happen)
• Eventually use the cue to ‘get’ the behavior
• Train ‘no reward’ with “uh-uh” or “too bad”

Hierarchy of Difficulty
• Inside with nothing much going on
• Outside in yard with nothing much going on
• Inside with low level distractions
• Outside with low level distractions
• Inside with medium level distractions
• Outside with medium level distractions
• Inside with high level distractions
• Outside with high level distractions
• In a pet store when busy or crowded
• When you have guests over

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