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anngreenthumb

clicker failure

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I decided to go the clicker training method with my new rescue. I bought the book, clicker and a bunch of treats. The book said for a few days you just click and treat until they adjust to the click/treat relationship. She hates the clicker so badly that she runs from the treat. After one day of clicking she now refuses treats. I had to go out and buy all new treats that had no relationship to the clicker and start training her the old fashioned way again. What gives? Should I just toss the clicker or tray again or what? Is she really afraid of the clicker? Anyone want a hardly used clicker?

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Use either a bottle top (like a snapple bottle) or a baby food lid, or just use a marker word. The magic is not in the device, it's in precisely marking the behavior.

 

Also try using some super dooper treats in addition to the less scary sound, like freeze dried liver (available at most premium pet supply stores) or microwaved hot dog bits. Cut a hot dog into teeny pieces and spread on a paper plate or paper towel. Micro wave about 15 seconds, or until dried out and crunchy. The pieces should be about a quarter of the size of your thumbnail.

 

Regards,

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I thought i was the only one!!!!! My bc and mastiff do great with the clicker, but my husky is scared to death of it. She shutters and runs in her dog house. My son says she has super sonic hearing and it must hurt her ears. She is like that with a lot of things though, really quirky dog. If i step on a twig while walking towards her she jumps like i just said "BOO!" from behind garbage can. Does your dog respond "weird" to a lot of different noises? But anyway, we had to use the word cue for Sasha (the husky), so her reward marker is the word "yes" in a happy but soft tone then a treat. She responds really well to this. Any kind of popping noise gives her the willies. ha ha.

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My dog spooks just the way my horse does at loud/sudden noises. Since I am used to this with the horse, I didn't find it odd. With Tess (my BC), I just say things matter-of-factly... "That was a bird... That was a car... That must have been someone dropping something..." When she sees I am not worried, she calms down. Works with the horse, too. Provided I am still ON the horse after he spooks. (:

 

Tess was terrified of the clicker, too, but I just covered it with a towel and clicked it and it was less scary. As she adjusted, I gave her more treats for a louder noise.

 

Some dogs never get used to it, and using a word like "Yeah!" or "Yes!" to mark the behavior works better for them.

 

Allie & Tess

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My usually fearless Captain was terrified of the clicker too, to the point where he fled at the sight of the treat bag! So we use a marker word instead - at least you'll never lose that.

 

It was such a nice clicker, too - purple with a little wrist strap...sigh....

 

Liz & Captain Cowardy Custard xxx

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I tried clicker training with Bailey. It worked fine for five commands. Then there was a time gap in his training. I started again on a new command. He was so interested in getting the food treat that he wouldn't pay attention to what I was trying to teach him. He kept trying to spontaneously perform the first five commands, without me saying anything. He was thinking "this worked before to get me a treat so I'll try it again." I don't know how to solve this problem, any suggestions?

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Hi Hector,

This is what happened to me and Charlie my older dog. They often offer the older behaivors for a time if they have had a gap in training with the clicker. If you keep going *usually* the dog will start to offer new things. They just have to relearn about it a bit. You can read more about clicker training lots of places or ask people on a clicker board or list.

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Ann,

 

I have to reply to this post. I also seeked help here about the fear of clicker 3-4 months ago. I actually spent a long time trying to fix the problem with food/treat. I started out with clicking from end of the house and gradually shorten the distance-I clicked then I dropped a piece of sausage in her bowl while she was eating.

 

From this, she was able to tolerate but then wasn't enough. In our training team, everyone uses clickers. At one event, she had to be in a event socializing with kids, then someone clicked right next to her. After that she was hiding under a table the next two hours. I knew I had to do something.

 

What I did was to ignore her. She gets really jelous when I play with other dogs. So I played with another dog with "HER" favorite toy for a long time while she is watching. Her favorite toy happened to be a ball. So I would throw it and at the same moment, I click - didn't even muffle it. They get more scared when you approach so I would just go further away from her while I do this. First day she still hide, the next day she started getting frustrated and peeked her head out a couple of times. On the third day, she started associating the click with ball. I didn't use food/treat because she already associated the clicker and food as negative thing. And she was more toy motivated dog than food. By the end of third day, I was clicking like crazy and she was chasing the ball like a happy dog.

 

I don't know what your dog's motivations are but find something he can't resist. The only reason I never tried using the ball in the very first place was that I didn't want her to hate the ball - something she truly loves. It was a bet but I tried everything else I could think of. So I decided to give it a try. And in our case, it worked.

 

It hurts so much to see our dogs in fear. So the third day, I was in tears with joy. My team mates can't understand but it really made a huge difference! Good luck.

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Thought I'd mention the i-click clicker...I just got one and have been playing around with it. This clicker is very quiet and can be clicked in any position - very nice for uncoordinated people or in agility class when I'm running. I've heard good things about using it with sound sensitive dogs.

 

Naomi, a clicker is a device that makes a distinct 'click' sound. When a dog is trained to understand that the sound means something good is coming, the click can be used to mark a behavior you like - like sit or down for example. For more info check out www.clickersolutions.com or do a google search for 'clicker training'.

 

Bill, obviously you aren't a big fan of clicker training. Any particular reason why? Just curious. Your thought that maybe the dogs are telling us something is good - some dogs aren't suited for clicker work given sound sensitivity, but the method still works well when a marker word is used...no reason to 'throw the baby out with the bath water' so to speak.

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... also, even if you decide not to use clicker training on your dog, for personal preference or otherwise, you still have to deal with other people using it, like INU did.

 

I've never used clicker training - I didn't know about it when I started training Oreo. I just naturally used a "marker" of "Good girl!" and I've never had problems. =) I doubt the clicker would scare her, though - she's not very sound-sensitive.

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I guess it's because I don't believe in training dogs to perform certain behaviors as an end in itself. Somehow shepherds have managed to have good dogs for centuries by simply showing them what was expected.

 

Rewards -- also known as bribes -- interfere with real communication between the dog and the owner. There's a much more profound level at which you meet the dog when you get to know his mind rather than expecting him to learn yours.

 

That's why I say "listen to them."

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Bill, interesting point of view. What do you mean when you say 'I don't believe in training dogs to perform certain behaviors as an end in itself'? Do you mean just training behaviors to train behaviors w/o a specific use for them?

 

I use a clicker, but I am a crossover trainer. I have found that my BC is much happier learning w/ the clicker than more traditional methods. For example: when trained w/ collar corrections and no food rewards, Maggie would lag badly, w/ ears back and tail down as well, when heeling both on and off lead; now that I've retrained heeling w/ a clicker she actually forges a bit and her tail is up, eyes bright, etc. Definitely a much happier dog. How do you train basic obedience type behaviors?

 

Maggie knows about 80 behaviors/commands; I've trained most for agility and advanced obedience, but I've also worked on training service dog type behaviors so she can help around the house. The more that she knows, the more jobs I can give her since I don't have access to sheep.

 

You say, "Rewards -- also known as bribes -- interfere with real communication between the dog and the owner." How have you come to this conclusion? I haven't found this to be true, but I don't use food as a bribe either. My dog will work for me regardless of whether I have food or not - she isn't lured into doing something, the food is only doled out after the behavior is completed.

 

I hope you don't think I'm trying to start an argument or debate, I just like understanding where other people are coming from when I see something differently.

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At the risk of sounding flippant -- if you have to ask ...

 

Let's take "lie down." Teach that with a clicker and it means stop moving, bend your legs, and put your belly on the ground. Teach that to a sheepdog on stock, and it means settle the sheep, let them move in the direction they are moving, but continue to respond to problems appropriately.

 

And do this when you're the better part of a mile away from the handler.

 

There's no way you can teach the latter using the clicker because it relies on the dog thinking and making decisions.

 

A famous sheepdog trainer told me two things 11 years ago at the first sheepdog training clinic I ever attended. It took me the better part of five years to start to understand what he was saying, and I'm still not sure I fully grasp it sometimes.

 

The two pieces of advice were these:

 

"Ask your dog and you'll get an answer."

 

and

 

"Make the right easy and the wrong difficult."

 

None of this has anything to do with collar corrections.

 

On the home page of this web site, there's a quotation from Donald McCaig that says it pretty well.

 

"People often wonder just what trainers give the sheepdog in exchange for its boundless willingness. Food treats and praise sit on the trainer's shelf, untouched, unused. The sheepdog is shown its possibilities, he learns what life is like for a good dog and is invited to walk in a rational world whose farthest boundaries are defined by grace."

 

---- Donald McCaig, Nop's Hope

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I did not read the whole thing so I dont know if someone already mentioned this... but many dpgs are terrified of the clicker, so you can buy clickers with a softer click now. some dogs just take a while to get used to the clicker, there are plenty of dogs that were terrified of the clicker, but there owners stuck with it. and now the dogs love the clicker and learn very well with it. rememeber a clicker is a marker and nothing more, you can also use a short word, perkys cue word is "ta" Ripleys is "yes"

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Bill, thanks for explaining things; I think I get what you're saying.

 

I definitely agree that in herding work a clicker is pretty stupid to use...I thought you were talking in general, not specifically herding.

 

I really wish Maggie and I had access to sheep - the special relationship between a shepherd and their dog and the amazing things that they can to together have always amazed me.

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Bill,

 

Sometimes people like to train dogs to perform behaviors that are non-utilitarian. They might do this for a number of reasons. One of the reasons is that often times, the dogs appear to enjoy the training. People have hobbies sometimes, you know.

 

Training for fun or sport is quite different from training for stock work, as you've pointed out, because the latter requires working with instincts and behaviors that are (hopefully) inherent in the dog, while training for fun or sport normally involves putting totally artificial behaviors onto a dog. This can involve a lot of thinking and active participation on the dog's part, depending on what you're training and how you're doing it -- although I agree with you that there is no comparison in that the amount of independent thinking and responsibility on the part of the dog is so much higher when the dog is working stock.

 

But, the point is that clicker training is extremely effective when your goal is to put artificial behaviors on a dog. This may not be an endeavor that you find valuable, but a lot of us and our dogs enjoy it. My dogs get to work sheep on a semi-regular basis, and of course they'd rather be doing that than anything else (even if one of them -- guess which one! -- is a much better agility dog than sheepdog). But I still see the value in training artificial behaviors "just because." It's something else that we enjoy doing together and that enhances our relationship. Hey, I'm not embarrassed to admit that Fly will spin on command and that Solo can both salute and play dead.

 

Some problems I do see illustrated in this thread, though, are too much dependence on the clicker itself (the principles of clicker training can be applied without using a clicker, as explained by others) and maybe not enough exploration of rewards other than food. If a dog is food-motivated, then food is the easiest thing to use to condition a dog to the clicker, and in some circumstances it is the most convenient reward to use (for example, in a class environment where it may be disruptive to start throwing toys around). But most dogs who will work for other motivators will learn to generalize so that the reward doesn't have to always be food. Both Solo and Fly work better for toys (for Solo it's a ball, for Fly it's a tug) than for food. I've trained Solo to do many things by clicking the behaviors I want and then throwing his little blue racquetball.

 

While I do believe that the principles of learning theory apply equally to herding training as sports training (dogs are more likely to engage in behaviors that are rewarding), I don't think that clickers are of much if any use in training a dog to work sheep. By the way Bill, my dogs and I just saw Jack Knox again a little more than a week ago. It was Fly's second time, Solo's third. I wouldn't keep going back if I didn't think he was right. It is possible to think that Jack Knox is right, and also think that clicker training is pretty damn useful in other contexts.

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As far as a Click and reward being a "bribe", would that mean that my boss bribes me with a paycheck? Hmmm, i will have to tell my boss that in the morning. I work cause i get a paycheck. Is that a bribe?

 

And i dont like my work and pleasing my boss nearly as much Maggie likes her "work" and the simple joy she takes in pleasing me.

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>

 

Well, sure it is. It's not an illegal bribe, but it's a bribe, just the way promising to pay a kid if he gets good grades is a bribe. Because, as you say, you wouldn't work for him if you didn't get the paycheck. But there are some kinds of work you'd do even if you weren't paid, right? Work you loved, or work to help out a friend you loved?

 

I think it's fun to teach my dogs things apart from sheep work, so I agree with Melanie there, but I wouldn't enjoy clicker training anything, so I understand what Bill's saying too. One of the wonderful things about the border collie breed, IMO, is that the dogs generally love to figure out what you want and do it -- it's one of the dividends of breeding for work. I want to work with them on that level. If it takes them longer to figure out what I want if I don't use a bribe or mechanical device to show them, that's fine with me. We'll take a little longer. If the dog dislikes what we're doing so much that he's unwilling to do it without a bribe (100 successive fronts to groove them to be perfectly straight, for example), then that's not something I want to do -- we'll work on things that are more interesting to both of us instead.

 

I remember taking my first border collie, when she was about two years old, to an agility class just to see what agility was about. It was my first and last agility class. The instructor said I had to put food on a little handkerchief to lure the dog through the tunnel or over a jump or whatever. My dog totally ignored the food. I would show her the tunnel and say "tunnel." She recognized that as a command, but since she didn't know what it meant she considered the possibilities. She tried jumping over it. I said no. She tried running around it. I said no. She ran through it. I said "good dog" and that would have been that, except that the instructor insisted I draw her attention to the treat and get her to eat it. She was totally bewildered, trying to figure out what eating the treat had to do with what I wanted. That's my kind of dog.

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"Bribing" refers to showing the dog a treat before asking them to do something. This is not something that most clicker trainers do and is considered a big no-no. Bribing is a really good way to end up with a dog who only performs when shown a treat.

 

Many real clicker enthusiasts try to do as much pure shaping as possible. Eileen actually gives a very good illustration of shaping in her agility example above. The idea is that the dog guesses, tries a number of different approaches, and that you reward the behavior you want. "Luring" is when you use a motivator (like a treat, or toy) or body language to induce the behavior you want. For example, a dog might be lured into a down by putting a treat in front of its nose and then lowering the treat. I think lures are useful when you have a very specific behavior that you want and when you have a dog who gets frustrated if he keeps guessing wrong when you are doing pure shaping. It is important, however, to fade the lure. This is usually quite simple to do.

 

Actually, the only difference between clicker training and what Eileen describes in her agility example is that instead of clicking, she used the phrase "good dog" as her reward marker. The reward was presumably also the praise as well as associated body language indicating that Eileen was pleased by the dog's actions. Clicker training is about using very precise markers to indicate desired behaviors and standardizing rewards. That's all, really. Food is often used as a reward because many dogs are food-motivated and it is easy to dole out, but the reward can be anything the dog finds motivating.

 

It is a pleasure to do agility with Solo because he finds the activity inherently motivating. Like many Border Collies, from day one he would happily do pretty much any obstacle you pointed him at. When we practice, I don't use food, although I will use a thrown ball as a reward. One of the debates that seems to be going on in agility-land is whether or not it is OK to use agility as its own reward, for example, rewarding proper execution of an obstacle by allowing the dog to go on to the next obstacle. This has worked pretty well for me and Solo in the past but it does involve some loss of control because it becomes easy for the dog to self-reward, and so some folks have warned me against doing this. I'm still on the fence about it myself.

 

When training or fine-tuning in a class environment I do use food, because when there are a bunch of you standing around watching it is disruptive to throw a ball for your dog (you might throw wildly, the other dogs want to chase the ball, etc.). In these contexts I will be very formal and click and treat because Solo learns faster if I put everything into the clicker rule structure that he already knows. Some of the things we fine-tune are very precise (like weave entries, or contacts) and a clicker is a perfect tool for marking these things, making it very clear to Solo exactly what I want. And when you click the dog, you must reward him because part of the bargain is that click = reward. I could have taught Solo all the basics of agility very easily without the clicker or extrinsic rewards but for more advanced stuff it's EXTREMELY useful and effective.

 

All clicker training is about is controlling rewards. It shouldn't be about bribing and done correctly, eventually the rewards are faded. The clicker and treats are used as tools to make things clearer to the dog while he is learning. They're just a really precise and potent version of "Good dog" and a pat.

 

I don't think anyone would have negative feelings about clicker training if it didn't often involve food. Food is a resource that dogs value, that we control -- why not use it as a tool in training, where appropriate?

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I guess it's a matter of personal preference. I would rather have a dog working to please me than to get a click or a treat.

 

"Good dog" and happy body language is more than a marker of accepted behavior. It's much closer to how dogs tell each other that things are okay. I have never seen one dog stuff food into another dog's mouth becuase it was pleased with the other dog's behavior. THe game simply continues, whatever it is. When there's a problem, the dogs stop to work it out.

 

I suppose using a clicker and treats (or whatever motivates a particular dog) might be a good way to teach a dog what to do. But, as in the paycheck example, I think it teaches it to do it for the wrong reasons. There's nothing more gratifying than doing a job that you would do even if you weren't getting paid.

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I have to agree with Bill and Eileen. The whole clicker thing baffles me. "Good dog" or equivalent is a direct, living connection with someone the dog is having a relationship with (hopefully).

 

It could be that the click becomes more standard and defined and the dog doesn't have to interpret the response as much as any specific emotional intonation in "good dog" but that subtle communication is what makes up the unique relationship. It's what makes each dog/handler relationship different.

 

To me, clicker training seems sterile. Like treats, which I've never used, it seems to move the emphasis from a successful relationship as a means to an end (the behavior) to a successful procedure as a means to an end.

 

JMHO

 

Denise

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I view clickers as training tools and in this case I see the clicker as a training tool to teach the handler to properly communicate with the dog and less for the dog to listen to the handler. Some of us are very good at properly communicating with dogs and can easily teach dogs what is expected of them while others are not as good and benefit from training tools. This is something I'm always working on myself. I'm amazed by the subtleties that dogs "hear". They don't need clickers; but perhaps we humans do need them at times.

 

Mark

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Melanie wrote:

 

>

 

And then she wrote:

 

>

 

Seems to me that second sentence contradicts the first. The significant difference, to my mind anyway, was that there was no reward apart from conveying to the dog that she was right, that running through the tunnel was what I wanted. We had no bargain that click = reward. (And it seems to me that the very fact you take clicker in hand would make the treat a bribe even under Melanie's definition, since the dog thereby knows that there's a treat to be had if he does right, just as much as if you showed him the food first.)

 

I've been told by a serious obedience trainer that my problem was that I had never developed the vocabulary of food rewards or toy rewards with my dogs, and that if I had, she would have understood where food fit into the equation. I think that's right, except that I don't see it as a problem. I don't want to develop that vocabulary; I much prefer the vocabulary we already share, without cultivating a "What's in it for me?" attitude by introducing extraneous incentives. I think Denise may have said it better than I can.

 

>

 

Well, I'd feel exactly the same if it was a toy rather than food, and the only way I can try to explain why I feel that way is to say it's because what I value is the relationship and the communication rather than achieving a perfect end result. To me, that's the point of it all, the reason I want to do it. It's not as if I need a dog who's a top agility performer. It would take all the pleasure out of it for me to do it by clicker training, just as much as it would for me to hire a trainer and tell him to get my dog to where she was a top agility performer.

 

Hmmm. I wonder if that's why I'm so cold to the idea of AKC titles. "Train your dog to meet our specifications and you'll get this reward." I don't want anyone clicker training me, either.

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