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Discussion Starter #1
I bought my first clicker tonight. I've been somewhat interested in doing clicker training over the past few years but my mom thought it was useless-- and for a while, I believed her.
I walked passed the clickers in the store tonight though, picked one up and I would like to give it a try!

So, my biggest question right now is; how do I condition my dog (I'm going to focus on doing it will Ellie, my GSD, right now) to the clicker?

Also what websites, books, articles etc. should I take a look at? Do you have any tips or advice you would like to share? I'm open to anything. :)


side note: I figure a lot of you are going to suggest going to a few classes and while I would love to do that, I'm not sure that anything like that is available in my area at the moment. I'll look into it for the future though. :)
 

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I hope someone will come along that can give you more input on clicker training. It is something that interests me as well. I just hired a trainer to work with Oliver as he has some aggression issues I want corrected. She uses cliker training so it will be interesting to observe. I have read that many people recomend the youtube videos by kikopup. She uses clicker training so maybe you could start there.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Oh yeah, Kikopup! I watched her video on loose leash walking a while back and I totally forgot that she used a clicker! Thanks! :)
 

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You charge the clicker by basically offering high value treats immediately after clicks until your dog starts coming to you and expecting the treat when they hear the click. The purpose of the clicker is to indicate to your dog exactly what they did that they are being rewarded for. If you think about it, using treats without some sort of clear and consistent way to mark the behavior you are reinforcing can be confusing to the dog because they can do several things in the time it takes you to get the treat to their mouth. All the clicker does is indicate what behavior your dog did that was right. Since it makes it clearer to the dog training can happen faster.

I've found it very useful for teaching tricks. Like this week I've been working on teaching Sydney to put her toys away. In the first session I clicked/treated every time she payed the ball we were using any attention. Then when she did that consistently I rewarded only when she touched it with her nose or paw. Then only when she picked it up. Then only when she kept it in her mouth for a few seconds. Then only when she brought the ball closer to the box (rather than farther) before dropping it. Then only when it was within a few inches of the box. Now I'm mostly only rewarding her for getting it in the box and working on it at different distances and with different toys. It's been really fun to watch her try different behaviors until she gets the right one...you can really see her mind working. It becomes a lot like a game of hot/cold. And man has it been a much quicker process than when I tried to train things like this without the use of a clicker.

I also use the clicker on walks to deal with her reactivity. Not only does it help mark when she is behaving calmly so I can reinforce it, but it also gets her attention when she is focused on something (before she reacts) so she knows to turn to me for a treat. In the past it was difficult to get her to take treats when there were a lot of distractions but the clicker has helped a whole lot. I guess since she is conditioned to think the sound = awesome, she is more likely to pay attention to me when the sound is made.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure in the training forum stickies there is a link to a free clicker training course you might want to check out. I found it fairly useful when I first started. You guys are going to have a lot of fun. :)

Oh and definitely check out kikopup's videos. She explains things really well.
 

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For charging a clicker, have a bowl of high value treats right by your hand. With the dog sitting in front of you, click and immediately offer a treat. Do this as fast as you can, allowing the dog to swallow each piece first obviously. Treats should be no bigger than your little fingernail.

When you start training it is important to remember that the click marks the action you want and the reward comes within 3 seconds of the click.

Also super important to get your timing right. I use the analogy of a camera shutter clicking when you take a photo. If you are late with the shutter button you either miss the photo or blur it. Same with the clicker. If you miss the right timing you miss or blur the action you want.

For a simple example, you are trying to shape a sit and you are late and you click the dogs rump coming back up = blur.

It is ok to be a split second early, but avoid a late click like your life depends on it.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
If you think about it, using treats without some sort of clear and consistent way to mark the behavior you are reinforcing can be confusing to the dog because they can do several things in the time it takes you to get the treat to their mouth. All the clicker does is indicate what behavior your dog did that was right. Since it makes it clearer to the dog training can happen faster.
That does make a lot of sense. I'm excited to see if this will work on my sled dogs as well--I have 2 dogs that I'm training to be leaders this summer and fall and I'm wondering if clicker training will make it easier for them. I sometimes forget to change my voice from command tone to praise tone while training so the consistency of a clicker will help me a great deal.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure in the training forum stickies there is a link to a free clicker training course you might want to check out. I found it fairly useful when I first started. You guys are going to have a lot of fun.
I signed up last night! I got the first lesson today and I going to go work on the homework. :)

Ellie is already coming to me when I click now. If she even sees me pick up the clicker, she gets excited. She's always been my fastest learner. lol

Thank you all for your replies! :D
 

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Discussion Starter #10
What's your homework assignment?
This:
-Find at least four different treats and perform a little taste trial with your dog. Then arrange the treats in order from 1-4 according to which you think your dog likes the best (remember that the dog’s preferences can change, so this order might be subject to change later).

-Try out at least three different dog toys and see if your dog fancies any of them.

-Write down at least three environmental reinforcers, that is reinforcers that you cant keep in your pocket but that your dog often wants when you are out and about. Try out at least one of these when you take a walk tonight (for example, say ”ok” when the dog has offered eye contact first).
:)
 

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I sometimes forget to change my voice from command tone to praise tone while training so the consistency of a clicker will help me a great deal.
This has been a definite plus for me, especially on walks. If I use my voice to mark the behavior, my emotional state can become a problem, especially if she's acting up in public or something like that. With the clicker my tone of voice doesn't even come into play, which I think goes a long way towards keeping her calm. It's harder for my anxiety to get passed onto her.
 

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For those who want to learn how to clicker train, after you get down the basics, if you aren't getting a good response, then you may have a problem with timing. I strongly recommend that you pay for a few lessons with a good clicker trainer who can help you with timing. It really makes a big difference.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Neat homework assignment and very useful stuff to learn about your dog. What kind of training place is this?
It's a free, online course from this place http://www.canisclickertraining.com/
I think it lasts 7 days? I can't remember but you might want to sign up! :) I've only gotten the first lesson but I really like it so far!
 

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Thanks so much for posting this thread & for all the great responses. I've been wanting to use the clicker but wasn't sure how to get started. We got started yesterday and so far, it's going great. I charged the clicker with her selected treat & then we did a few basic commands so I could see if she understood what the click means and I think she does. We went out for an evening walk with a treat bag & clicker to do some loose leash training and I'm really pleased with the results, esp. b/c I'd really rather train her to walk next to me than use a special harness or collar that forces the behavior. Every time she was in the zone I'd like her to be in, I clicked & treated. She's still pulling a bit but it's much less and I think she's starting to understand that when she stays next to me, she gets treats but when she wanders, the walk stops.
 

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I did the free lessons from canis and bought the ebook. It has some videos too. I wish I had did it from the start because I learned I was doing some things wrong. I'm working on getting coop to heel but I'm lazy and don't work on it every day like I should. I was really surprised how fast they learn using the method. In about five minutes he learned to put his front feet on a mouse pad and he'll do it every time I move it. I put it on top of a box and steps up on it with his front feet but I'm having trouble getting him to stay on it. He'll get it though, I just need to work on it more often.
 

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Probably the hardest lessons to learn in clicker training are...click for behavior and reward for position (this is about you figuring out how you want to shape the behavior and knowing what comes next). Then, rate of reinforcement (people usually don't pay out enough). And just a tip, if you click, you pay. Don't spoil the click even if you make a mistake.
 

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Clicker training is as helpful for the human as it is for the dog. It forces us to shut up and figure out what to reinforce to get where we want. The benefit for the dog is that he learns to think and is engaged in learning. In all, if your timing and criteria skills are spot on, I think it's potentially the most efficient form of communicating to another species what to do.

I do more behavior modification type stuff than shaping tricks, so I don't think my shaping skills are up to par with the experts, but even in behavior mod, timing and criteria are paramount, and a certain amount of shaping is happening.
 

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Nor am I interested in a lot of tricks mainly obedience. The stuff I taught him seemed to me to be necessary, less the roll over. But the ebook and videos are very detailed and I believe I will be sucessful. I believe Cooper is like all pups, he play bites, jumps on everyone who visits, humps, and scares little kids who aren't used to dogs because he gets so excited when they visit.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
So I have a question; once you charge the clicker, can you do tricks and things where you can click for the behavior you want but you can't offer a treat right after the click? For example, I like to do this thing with Ellie where I will put her in a "sit, stay" and walk about 20 to 30ft away from her. I tell her to "come, stop, and down" with hand signals about 4 to 5 times as she comes to me. Should I click every time she performs the "come, stop, down" or should I wait to click until she has done the whole thing, has reached me, and I can give a treat?

Sorry if that doesn't make any sense, I can try and explain it better if need be...
 
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