Friday, October 28, 2011

What a difference a clicker makes

As I have been working with Fozzie, Lamar, and Sandy on learning some new tricks lately, I have been so impressed with how eagerly they've been willing to go to work. 


And its definitely not just the hot dogs, the dehydrated tuna, or the cheesy snacks. 


When I work with the treats alone, the dogs are definitely happy to earn them and all the associated praise. But there is a certain sparkle in the eye, a certain eagerness, a certain motivation that I see only when I bust out the clicker. 









For a dog like Lamar, who is generally shy about trying new things, this makes a huge difference in training. It can bring him out to the living room, ready to work with a spring in his step, at times when otherwise he'd be nervously hanging back in his darkened bedroom lair. 



The clicker has such a powerful history as a secondary reinforcer that it's become an even greater motivator than the primary reinforcer. In general, I find that using a verbal marker like "yes" is fine and helpful for those times where a clicker is too cumbersome--but learning definitely happens faster with the clicker. 


Some behaviorists contend, according to Pat Miller's The Power of Positive Dog Training, that the unique sound of the clicker goes to work on a part of the dog's brain where it can be acted upon immediately, while verbal cues must be processed through the cortex first. Its like the clicker gives you a key to a magic kingdom of learning potential that is otherwise not as easily accessed. 


What's been your experience? Is the clicker your ticket to success too, or have you found another magic dog training wand?

14 comments:

  1. I only did a bit of clicker training and had great results :) I have been reading up on it a lot lately since I plan on using it with my puppy when I get her :) I love the concept of positive reinforcements :)

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  2. Thanks for sharing this!

    http://dogfoster.blogspot.com

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  3. Clicker = genius! It's pretty amazing, huh?

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  4. Hi Kirsten, my mom has gone to "Clicker Expo" the last two or three years and is going again in January. She uses clickers with us and also in her dog classes. So we definitely agree with your assessment of clicker training.

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  5. MayzieMom here. I am a clicker fan! When we got Ranger, we'd never heard of clicker training and did traditional obedience with him. By the time we adopted Mayzie, I had begun to read more about clicker training and we got into a clicker class. Wow! I was absolutely amazed. I couldn't believe how much faster Mayzie caught on to things than Ranger had...despite her being a fearful dog. And I truly think that's due to the clicker because Ranger is an extremely smart dog. It also helped boost her confidence like crazy.

    I also find that it causes the dog to really THINK and process WHY they got clicked...and what they have to do to get the click. Trying to convert Ranger to the clicker has been a challenge. He learned that if I do (fill in the blank), I get rewarded. He learned to do what he was told to do so getting him to "offer" anything is difficult. Mayzie, on the other hand, offers behaviors like crazy. To me, it seems like that's gone a long way toward helping her overcome her fears because she realizes that HER actions can control her environment. Does that make sense?

    Okay, I'm done raving about the clicker. Long live the clicker! :-)

    Amber

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  6. My dogs like working with the clicker, but I MUST give them verbal feedback or they shut down. If I just stay quiet and use the clicker to mark, they will lose motivation and wander off or start looking away. If I add in verbal praise and my marker word in addition to the clicker, they will continue to be upbeat and happy workers.

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  7. We have always been wanting to try this but have not put forth the effort

    Stop on by for a visit
    Kari
    http://dogisgodinreverse.com

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  8. I'm lazy but have tried the clicker although not consistently. I am reading Pat Miller's "The Power of Positive Dog Trainer" and as soon as I finish it I intend on training in earnest. Now I just need to find the time to read...

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  9. The clicker works wonders with our Greyhounds! Bunny responds especially well to it, and I use it when we take pictures.

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  10. I need to get a clicker, I know I do... just don't have time to train my own dog at all. :(

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  11. If I'm watching a Youtube video where someone is using a clicker Frankie will come running in and start watching the video with me:) I think it is a marvellous tool, but not a magic wand:) I have to use verbal encouragement with Beryl too, or else she just gives me the finger and walks off, lol.

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  12. I love clicker training! It really works and it's so much fun to do!

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  13. ....the unique sound of the clicker goes to work on a part of the dog's brain where it can be acted upon immediately, while verbal cues must be processed through the cortex first.

    I've done lots of training with my dogs, but never using a clicker. That snippet, though, has me intrigued enough to seriously pursue it. Thanks for sharing!

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