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anngreenthumb

clicker failure

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Eileen,

I'm not sure that you couldn't teach new behaviors with just a click and not follow up with a primary reinforcer. I haven't tried it. Lucy gets some type of reinforcement when I click, whether it's a tidbit of food, a short tug session, a "good girl!", or even just released for some free time. I'm just saying that as far as I know, that's not the way "it's done".

 

I think there is a distinction between your dog doing something "for you" vs. doing something "for your response". Maybe it's a semantic argument, I dunno. I do think there is a difference. To me, "for you" implies that the dog does it just because you want them to, and that your response has no effect on future behavior. I think dogs do things either to earn a reward or to avoid a punishment. Of course, my definitions of "rewards" and "punishments" are broader than just "food treats" or "leash pops". I won't argue that the relationship you have with your dog has an enormous impact on the value the dog places upon your responses. I think that's a given, and I'm not sure it's really relevant to whether one chooses to utilize clicker training as part of their training repertoire.

 

I don't think I overstated how herding behavior and other heritable traits in specific breeds of dogs are self reinforcing. I did say that they do need to be shaped and refined. Even the most well bred hunting retriever needs to be taught to deliver to hand, for example. While the raw material is there, it needs to be honed through practice into the final product.

 

I think you're probably right that Border Collies, in general, are more likely to value pleasing their handler than a lot of other breeds; I would imagine it's an important aspect of the shepherd/sheepdog relationship, and that there is some heritable basis for it. On the other hand, take bloodhounds. They are far less likely to give a toot about sitting pretty for their owner, or figuring out what their owner is trying to teach them. However, I think it is a mistake to say that ALL BCs want to please and that ALL bloodhounds are dumb as rocks. That's really all I was getting at with my statement.

 

I can see that as well as being more likely to value pleasing their handler, BCs seem to take more joy in figuring stuff out than a lot of other breeds; at least this is my experience with Lucy. I've noticed that Lucy tries much harder to figure out what I'm trying to teach her than my other dogs do, and she seems to get a lot of satisfaction out of hearing the click that tells her she got it right. Sometimes I think the treat is just the gravy on top. Do I *need* to use clicker training? Nope. I do it because it's fun for me, it's fun for her, and I don't see anything particularly wrong with having fun with my dog.

 

That, and because I'm also a sucker for dog gadgets.

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Well, it was Laura who said her dogs would do anything for her, and I was following up on that in my question. My dogs enjoy figuring out what I want and doing it. I suppose they can't know what I want, or whether they've figured it out, without some kind of response from me. So in that sense I guess you could say they're doing it "for my response." But to me that's very different from doing it for a snausage.

 

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Well, yeah, that's behavioral theory. And to fit the facts to the theory, you can define my "good dog" as a reward, and say it's no different than a click plus dried liver. To me it is different.

 

 

Okay, fine. But if you have a dog who will work and learn things for the pleasure of figuring out what you want and doing it, why would you want to try to persuade her to do it for a clicker and a treat instead? Especially when you're working with a breed that tends to be sound-sensitive, and the dog is telling you it doesn't like the clicking, and you're fumbling around to try and find a way to get it not to mind the clicking so much so you can use a clicker as your "reward marker." To me that seems to be sacrificing a lot to conform to current fashions in dog training.

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"My question dealt with whether a clicker trainer could subsequently train new behaviors just with the clicker, without the "bargained for" treat. I gather the answer is no."

 

I guess you could, but why would you want to throw away a training tool you spent time developing? In an agility context, we really don't want the dog to self-reward on equipment, so we add in a reward associated with us, whether it is a frisbee or a treat.

 

"But if you have a dog who will work and learn things for the pleasure of figuring out what you want and doing it, why would you want to try to persuade her to do it for a clicker and a treat instead?"

 

hopefully no one is forcing clicker training on anyone, especially those of you already set in your ways (WRT training). I see the clicker as just another tool in the training toolbox, available to anyone who wants to give it a try and learn a different aspect of positive training with conditioned reinforcement.

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But if you have a dog who will work and learn things for the pleasure of figuring out what you want and doing it, why would you want to try to persuade her to do it for a clicker and a treat instead?

 

There is no persuasion involved. As I said, Lucy and I have fun together with clicker training. It's a mutual enjoyment. I like giving her treats, and she likes the "game". There is nothing insidious or sinister about it. It's just fun. For both of us. The clicker is simply a teaching tool for helping her learn new behaviors, and it's a really low stress way for her to learn. Once she knows the behavior, the clicker is faded pretty quickly.

 

Especially when you're working with a breed that tends to be sound-sensitive, and the dog is telling you it doesn't like the clicking, and you're fumbling around to try and find a way to get it not to mind the clicking so much so you can use a clicker as your "reward marker." To me that seems to be sacrificing a lot to conform to current fashions in dog training.

 

Again, Lucy likes the clicker. I wouldn't force it upon her if she was afraid of it. If you're referring to anngreenthumb's original concern, please read my first response to her where I specifically stated that if her dog is that afraid of it, then it might be kinder to not use a clicker. It looks like we're in agreement on that. :rolleyes:

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Why would it be throwing away a training tool? If (as I understood you to be saying) the point of a clicker is that it designates the correct behavior more quickly and precisely than a word can, then it has done its job once it's clicked. It has told the dog that what the dog did was right. Why is a treat then necessary, once the dog has learned that the clicker signals he's right, that what he did is what you want? Unless (as I was saying) the dog is working for the treat rather than "for you."

 

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I understand that.

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Because by using the clicker as is (i.e. with tangible reward), it becomes a more powerful tool. Even a workaholic likes a paycheck. And I really don't want to be changing the rules on my dog. I've established Click=reward, so click will always equal reward, but I don't have to use a clicker and only do if the situation warrants it. It's how I choose to train my dogs, and as I previously mentioned, I see better results for precise and/or complex behaviors than with traditional training, and it's not because I'm a bad trainer or my dogs are brainwashed into wanting a reward. There's nothing wrong with giving dogs toys or treats to reward a job well done; I'm the one choosing to use them, not the dog.

 

I know most people have no need for the clicker and get by fine without it, but we all do different things with our dogs and therefore all have different needs. If all I did was dabble in agility, or just had a pet dog or a farm dog, then I probably wouldn't use a clicker either. But that's not it for me, I do compete in dog sports where an inch or a tenth of a second actually means something. I train my dogs to be as competitive as possible and enjoy doing so, but that's me, I'm a competitive person. There is that certain thrill/rush you get when you're connecting with your canine teammate, who's running at Mach 2 over a difficult course. Since not all of us have the luxury of having constant access to stock, we have to get our thrills elsewhere.

 

-L

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Wow, this discussion is pretty interesting. I love the different perspectives.

 

Anyway, I thought I'd mention that I actually fade out the treat in the click=treat equation once the dog is performing the behavior I want reliably.

 

Many people, my agility instructor included, don't think it's good to do that, but it has worked very well for my dog and I. In agility for example: we're working on contacts, but Maggie understands them pretty well so if she hits them she gets a click (or a 'yes') but no treat. Her treat will come after we finish the course, and probably after a few more clicks. Yes, I still reward her, although much of the time it's with lots of verbal praise rather than food or toys.

 

In a way, she is working for the click alone and the praise 'jackpot' from me (praise from others doesn't work BTW) at the end of the run.

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