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More Clicker Training Information (previous Clicker instructions here)

Overcoming Fear of the Clicker by Karen Pryor

(Very Good to use with a dog, cat or other critter that is afraid of that "click" noise)

Hereís a method that has worked well with several of my studentsí clicker-shy dogs.

1. At your dogís regular mealtime, prepare his meal and put your clicker and six STUPENDOUS treats (pieces of raw meat or other "people food") in your pocket.

2. Put the dogís bowl down. As soon as he begins to eat, leave the room, go to the other end of the house (the room farthest away from where heís eating) and click once. Return and drop a wonderful treat in his bowl (say nothing; just enter, deposit the treat, and leave again). Go to the far end of the house again, click once, and return with a treat. Repeat until you run out of treats or until the dog finishes his meal.

3. Repeat at each meal, staying *slightly* closer to the dog each time (about half a room per meal) until youíre able to stand in the kitchen, clicking and dropping treats into his bowl while heís eating. By the time you get to this point, your dog should be well and truly convinced that the sound of the clicker means Great Things For Dogs. When your dog begins to look up eagerly every time you click, heís ready for you to use the clicker in training.

The Power of Positive Training - Principles and Tips

Copyright 2001, Nicole Wilde, Gentle Guidance Dog Training

Training your dog should be an enjoyable experience for you both. The more you understand about how your dog thinks and learns, the more effectively you can communicate. Clear communication means successful training and good behavior-with no need for force or coercion!

1. That which is rewarded is more likely to happen again. In other words, dogs do what works for them. If your dog was given praise and a cookie the last time he sat, he is more likely to sit again the next time you ask. If he knows that jumping up on you will earn your attention, heíll keep jumping, as your attention is a reward. This powerful principle is and a key component of reward-based training.

2. Dogs learn by association. When training, it is important that the reward closely follow the desired behavior. For example, when teaching your dog to sit, the praise and treat should be given when his rear touches the floor, not after heís stood up again. On the other side of the coin, reprimanding your dog for something he may have done hours ago (i.e. you come home to find your slippers shredded) is pointless; your dog wonít associate your yelling with what heís done, and if this happens often enough, he may begin to fear your arrival, as youíre always angry for no reason he can fathom.

3. Reward behaviors you want, rather than punishing behaviors you donít want. Most of us are so accustomed to noticing "mistakes" our dogs make, that it seems strange to begin noticing and rewarding "good" behaviors. For example, your dog barks, so you yell at him to be quiet. Sure, a barking dog is hard not to notice. But what about when heís lying calmly? Most of us never consider rewarding calm, so the dog only gets rewarded with our attention (even yelling is attention) when he is doing something we donít like. So, of course he keeps doing those things! If on the other hand, he gets attention for being calm, he will be calm more often. Make it a point to catch and reward your dog for doing something right!

4. Extinction If a behavior is ignored, it will eventually extinguish on its own. Imagine you are trying to buy a soda from a vending machine. You drop in your change, press the button, and wait. Nothing happens. You press the button more forcefully, and try a few others as well. Still nothing. You jangle the change lever. No soda, no change. If youíre like me, you might at that point shake or kick the machine. (I never said I was patient!) All that effort and still no soda! So, grumbling to yourself, you give up and leave. In this example, the soda-seeking behavior extinguished because there was no payoff, no reward. Me kicking or shaking the machine is an example of an extinction burst. What that means for your dog is that if you ignore an unwanted behavior, before your dog gives up, the behavior may actually escalate. The important thing is to wait it out rather than giving in-it will eventually stop, and will stop even sooner the next time around.

5. Positive reinforcement is something the dog wants. Just because you think those expensive new treats are a great reward doesnít mean they are. If your dog turns his nose up at them, theyíre not much of a reward in his mind. A reward can be petting, verbal praise, a throw of the ball, a quick game with a favorite toy, sniffing grass, saying hello to another dog, etc. The skyís the limit. Good trainers consider what things the dog finds rewarding, and uses them.

6. Jackpot! The jackpot is something really special, head and shoulders above the usual reward. Your dog can earn this amazing prize by doing something especially wonderful. While itís always important to use training treats your dog likes, save the Super-Yummy, Best-Thing-In-The-World as a jackpot. Hereís an example of how Iíd use the jackpot: In teaching Sit, the dog obviously understands the behavior, but doesnít sit very quickly. When I give the sit cue, he watches me for a moment, then languidly lowers his butt to the floor. You can almost hear him sigh, "Oh okay, if I must." However, on the fourth repetition, he responds immediately; butt hits floor in record time. Jackpot! I immediately give him a few pieces of the jackpot treat one after another, along with effusive verbal praise. (You can also give a mega-jackpot by tossing a shower of the usual treat!) Jackpotting makes an impression--it calls the dogís attention to the fact that heís done something really great. He is more therefore more likely to perform this behavior better than usual the next time. A jackpot doesnít have to be food, either. If your dog is like my German Shepherd and lives for a toss of the ball, use that as your jackpot. Know your dog and use what works for him.

7. Find an alternate behavior. When you want your dog to stop doing something, give him something else to do instead, that is incompatible with the behavior you donít want. For example, if your dog jumps up on you, have him sit instead; he canít sit and jump at the same time. Does he chew on furniture? Give him a legal chew toy instead; he canít chew items on both at once. Try this: Take a piece of paper, and draw a line vertically down the center. On the left, list all the things your dog does that youíd like him to stop doing. On the right, next to each behavior, write down an incompatible behavior-something he could do instead. Once you start thinking about things in this way, youíll be surprised at the creative solutions you come up with-and how needless punishment really is.

8. Raise criteria gradually in small increments, building on each success. Simply put, that means donít expect too much too soon. Instead, build small steps to get from Point A to Point B. For example, when teaching your dog to stay, start with a very short stay (i.e. three seconds). If that is successful, try for a stay that is two seconds longer. If the five-second stay is too much (your dog breaks the stay), donít correct him. Youíve asked for too much too soon. Simply go back to three seconds and start again. Any time your dog does not perform an exercise correctly, ask yourself if you have raised the criteria too quickly, and go back to the point at which he was last successful. Then build gradually. Raising criteria gradually eliminates the need for correction by setting your dog up to succeed.

9. If trained correctly, behavior is not contingent on food being present. This is something that many people who are opposed to food-reward training donít understand. If you phase treats out gradually and use lots of real-life rewards (petting, games, etc.) as well, your dog will perform behaviors even when you donít have food on you. We use a lot of treats at first to teach and practice a new behavior. Eventually, a schedule of random (unpredictable) reinforcement will ensure that it continues. You wouldnít want to stop getting paid once you got better at your job; so donít forget to give reward your dog sometimes for a job well done!

10. Training should be fun!

- Keep training sessions short; 3-5 minutes a few times daily is fine.

- Focus on one new behavior per session.

- Keep an upbeat attitude when training. Donít train when youíre cranky!

- End each training session on a successful note. Did your dog just do ten good sits,

with the last one being really great? End the session there.

- As each behavior is learned, incorporate it into your daily routine as much as possible.

Above all, BE KIND TO YOUR DOG AND HAVE FUN!

Copyright 2001, Nicole Wilde, Gentle Guidance Dog Training

Some web sites with GREAT information are: www.clickertraining.com

and Positive Dog motivation training : www.positivedogs.com 

and www.perfectpaws.com

and www.clickersolutions.com

Positive training solutions: www.shirleychong.com