Dog Clicker Training Methods

Dog Clicker Training Methods
clicker training puppy?

if you have used the clicker training to train your dog, is it a good method. i have a 9 week old golden retriever and i was thinking about using this method and i just want to know if its any good. And how do you use it?

Clicker training is a great method to work with puppies.

First, to clear up a few misconceptions in the first two posts:

The click does note replace verbal cues or hand signals. The clicker is used in the teaching phase to mark the behavior you want to reinforce. Once you have the behavior in a form you like, you can start adding a cue (verbal or body language, or even something else like an envrionmental cue) before the behavior occurs, to tell the dog that is the behavior you are asking for.

The click is done before you give your treat (or other reinforcer) just as the dog is doing the behavior. If you give the treat at the same time, it won't have a lot of meaning for the dog, as the presence of the treat will overwhelm everything else.

So how does this work for a new behavior? For a 9 week old puppy, let's teach a down. I'm not going to tell the puppy to down, because he doesn't know what that word means yet. There are several ways you can get any behavior:

Modeling- physically manipulating the dog into the position you want. Not always very practical, dogs will often resist, and they aren't thinking very hard about the results.

Luring- using food or some other inducement to get the dog to do the desired behavior. Can be very useful, often an easy way to get a behavior. Downside is that dogs aren't thinking of much except the food in front of them, and some people have trouble getting rid of the lure. Targeting is a similar method, but uses a neutral object that the dog has been taught to follow instead of food, minimizing the downsides.

Capturing- marking when the dog does something you want, and following up with a reinforcer of some king (usually food) Doesn't work for more complex behaviors, but easy to do for those behaviors that the dog does naturally.

Shaping- marking gradual approximations of the behavior until the final behavior is learned. Can be difficult to teach people how to do, requires good observation skills, but for dogs and handlers that do it, it opens up a whole new horizon for learning at incredible speeds.

For our 9 week old puppy learning how to down, we will use capturing. We'll set things up so that we can get more successes in a smaller timeframe by using a small space, and doing the activity after the pup has had a chance to run around and potty. Take puppy, treats (small, bite size, preferably soft), clicker, and boring reading material into the bathroom and close the door. Puppy will explore a bit, possibly jump on you, ignore, read, and watch puppy out of the corner of your eye. When the pup lies down, click, and toss a treat so the puppy has to get up to get it. This will be somewhat exciting, so pup will jump and run around a bit, then as he sees no reaction from you, will lie down again- click and treat again. Repeat, repeat, repeat. At some point, the pup will start lying down as soon as he eats the treat- he's figured out that's the fastest way to get a treat. Now you have a pup that lies down willingly, even eagerly, in the bathroom- he doesn't know this works in the kitchen, or living room, or bedroom yet, so repeat the exercise in other places. When the dog starts offering you downs in other locations, you are ready to start adding a cue- something that tells the dog that you want him to do this thing we call lying down. So choose a cue- "down" works! Be consistent- don't say "down" sometime, and other times "lie down" and other times "down, down, DOWN!" Start by saying the cue silently to yourself, and if the dog goes down when you predict, you can start adding the cue. Say it, dog does behavior, click/treat (c/t).
Do a bunch of reps, and try to not get into a rhythm so that the dog is just responding to the rhythm. Then don't give the cue for a few seconds, and if the dog hesitates (as he should), follow up with the cue. If the dog doesn't hesitate, take a few steps away and repeat. Voila! Your puppy knows the rudiments of lying down on cue (still need to add duration, distractions, and distance, but, hey, he's only a pup!))

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