Why Clicker Training? cone round 4

Clicker training falls within a philosophy I have subscribed to for over 25 years. I do not see dog training as that of a trainer who has rights over the learner - human or canine. I see the process as one of discovery, exciting opportunities and pure enjoyment from both teacher and learner. I see dogs come to the learning full of natural enthusiasm and their body language displays pure joy when asked to show me what they have learned.

Dogs are very, very good learners for the whole of their lives. They welcome learning, relish problem solving and finish satisfied happy dogs.

This is a process which will enhance and deepen your relationship with your dog, through greater understanding, good communication and with absolute trust.

Using the clicker helps you understand exactly what it is you are trying to communicate to the dog. The click is never ambiguous, as the voice can often say “good boy” but with a less than enthusiastic delivery it will sound false, and the dog will sense it. We talk and talk and talk to our dogs and the click successfully cuts through all the waffle.

You have just come home and wearing your posh frock, yes you are pleased to see the dog, but only if they don’t jump at you. Asking them to sit, hang on there for a moment, will allow you to slip your hand into their collar, give the greeting they have been yearning for and prevent them from jumping up - THAT sit, that allowed a successful result, gets a click. It is followed by a moment of reunion, great reward. Good job!

To begin with it seems an unnecessary training device that is more stuff to get your head around.

No worry. All our classes follow the clicker philosophy and you can pick up a clicker at any time to suit you. If you want to learn the skills we recommend the Clicker Trainers Course or the books. It is truly a fascinating journey that will affect communication at every level with people as well as your dog.

The Clicker Philosophy

When we use clicker training we look for situations that encourage the dog to teach themselves what to do. We all remember the self taught lessons for life, sometimes they are quite painfully experienced, but they stick with us, whereas advice given to us from well meaning predecessors seems to get forgotten quite easily.

dotturnWe take every care to avoid making a dog’s lessons painful, they can be quite brain taxing, but never painful.

Just the other day I found a piece of chicken skin - ideal for sharing. The only dog around was my 16 week old pup, Flink. She was watching this morsel with keen eyes, I made a deal - “if you can remember what YOU have to do when I say “Hello” then you can have this piece of chicken”. She looked at the chicken, looked at me, consulted the data base and came up with the right answer ... she sat!

This was her choice, solved her way and worth all the effort. The sit would get the “click” and she would earn the piece of chicken.

Every day life is full of small rewards. We learn to look for those moments and teach the dog how to earn them.

My dogs love to charge out of the door into the garden first thing in the morning. Pheasants seem to enjoy browsing the shrubs, and of course the Gordons are outraged at this. To enjoy that opportunity to chase out of the door, ALL the dogs have to stand or sit under control before the door is opened. This means no whining, door scratching, bouncing up and down or barking. When every one has their enthusiasm under control, I click, and the door opens.

Clicker Magic

The clicker lets you separate the behaviour (leaving the rabbit chase) from the reward, (arriving back with you for a Big Hug).

The clicker works the same for everybody in the family.

The clicker lets us teach the dogs tricks that we never thought we could - “sleepy” (place your chin on the floor and look at me in a very sad way)

The clicker works for EVERY dog. It is science, not myth or legend. In fact it works for every animal, including fish, rats, dolphins, killer whales, horses, pigs, sheep (how did you think they trained all the sheep in “Babe”?).

We say clicker training is simple, but not easy. The principle is simple, using it with full efficiency and effectiveness can take time to learn ... but it is a great learning journey, one of the best you will ever travel.

Clicker Training clicks itself. This method is SO effective the dogs get it super quick, and you can have a sense of achievement very, very quickly. The more you learn, the more you teach which builds a desire to learn and teach more

What do you want to learn?

When I first started to learn about clicker training I could see it was going to compliment my existing training, deepen my understanding and skills. Oh boy, I should have seen the spades coming as well! Nobody told me it would significantly alter my behaviour, push my learning to such a depth I could never have imagined, and the more I learn the more I see I still have to learn. It is an exciting time and highly motivating.

The nearest analogy I can use is to that of cooking. You can either learn it as a career, with the full intention of immersing yourself into every aspect, developing your own interests and happily spending your entire life in the kitchen, or, you can learn sufficient to meet your current interests, perhaps feed your family, or dinner parties. Some us only learn enough to provide the daily fuel (me). Clicker training is similar, you can just learn enough to manage your dog, prevent problems and share a mutually satisfying life together, or you can make it a career choice. Most folk live somewhere in between.

If you know you want to train your dog for something specific, such as a dog sport: Obedience, Heelwork to Music or work, clicker training will provide you with an excellence foundation in the science of behavioural teaching.

If you want to just learn more about your dog, how to teach and understand him or her better, then through learning to communicate with a clicker and reinforcement you will learn how your dog responds to their environment, how they view different behaviours, and how to teach a few VERY cool tricks to impress the innocent, dog-less folk.

Either way your relationship with your dog will change. It is fascinating, challenging, demanding, satisfying and you will discover a whole new social life where we talk about “clickable points” and “reinforcement patterns”.

Yeah. So cool!

Clicker Training workshops: butbook2015


Discovery of Clicker Training

Clicker training is based on the development of behaviour analysis in the 50's by Keller Breland, Marian Breland Bailey and Bob Bailey, from principles largely credited to Professor B F Skinner of Harvard University. It was developed through training marine mammals and very sadly did not reach the dog trainer's world until recent years.

An experiment with the "Skinner Box" involved placing the learner (very often a rat or pigeon) in a box devoid of all external stimulation, ie no objects, no view, nothing to interact with. The only item in the box was a feeding dish and access to the feeding dish from a tube. This box could be observed by the researcher who could also dispense food (rewards) at the touch of a button.

Many things came out of this research but in particular importance to us were these key things:

  1. The animal would return to doing what it was doing when the food dispenser "clicked" to release the food (reward), not what it was actually doing whilst being rewarded (ie; eating).
  2. The experimenter could shape the behaviour by controlling the timing of the "click".
  3. The experimenter could improve results by increasing the quantity/quality of the reward.

This was contrary to established training methods which if they employ reward is planned such that the reward is delivered as the dog is doing the required action, ie; "praise in the sit".

Karen Pryor bought the application of the principles into our homes, developing the "clicker" (the dolphin trainers use a whistle), and has pioneered clicker training in many areas. Although since the boom in clicker training I have noticed a few more people claiming ownership.

If you are more interested in exploring the underlying principles the internet offers rich resources to explore. You may find that most exponents are quite attached to their jargon and it can take some getting used to.

Practically all university psychology programmes involve the Skinner Box, the technical term for the rat is the "operant" (or operand) and the principle is "bridging". You will often find the clicker referred to as a "bridge" or "marker" (it "marks" a behaviour), and in the case of a clicker a bridge between a reward and a behaviour. The operant becomes conditioned to the bridge - hence Operant Conditioning. (and that's probably the last time we'll refer to it!)

Nearly all the things we teach the animals will be referred to as "behaviours", some will be actions, some will be responses, some emotions etc, but all are "behaviours". Many behaviours go to make up an exercise, such as retrieve.



07 February 2017

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