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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
We started a new class with our dog to work on shyness/fear of other dogs. They wanted us to use a clicker.

We sat with her and asked her to sit, clicked, reward. Only she ran from the reward due to the noise of the clicker. She now refuses to sit even weeks later.

She is a 4 year old border collie mix rescue. We have had her for about 2 years. We suspect she was abused.

How do we warm her back up to the idea that every future sit command wont be followed up by a click? We kind of swore off the clicker for now. The class teacher switched out all the box clickers in the class with another clicker that was more quiet and she handled other trainers in the class using it. But it took her a while to warm up to it.

I feel like the class is a waste due to her cowering in a corner shutting down completely. We got her to eat finally, but she wouldn't do any commands.

She knows sit, stay, down, crawl, roll, up, down, over, under, paw and catch. But lately she has been hesitant on even doing those, but absolutely refuses to sit.

It sucks because I feel like she would be a real good agility dog as she loves climbing and naturally gravitates towards weaving and we wanted to do this class to get her more comfortable with other dogs.

Shes also in a nose work class which she loves and excels at and is handling the crate during the class very well despite being afraid of it initially.
 

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I would recommend completely forgetting the "commands" in class environments. It's not what your dog needs at the moment, and in fact insisting that she do it when she is feeling scared might be ruining the cues... And more importantly, it sounds like it's making her dislike training.

Instead, I would recommend capturing calm and brave behavior. Look up "shaping" and shape confidence in the class environment. It is a more advanced technique that requires looking out for the subtleties of dog body language.

Regarding "sit", the way to think about it is your dog was heavily punished for sitting weeks earlier when you clicked for it. I know that was not your intention and it was an honest mistake. But if I were you I would either do some counter conditioning with the word "sit" (ie, just say Sit and feed her a treat no matter what she's doing, repeat ad nauseum), OR easier... reteach sit and choose a different word.

It's nice that your trainer switched to softer clickers, but keep in mind that if your dog finds the sound aversive, a soft click might also be slightly punishing or inhibiting her behavior. Watch her body language when she hears the soft click. Does her entire body move forward a bit (anticipating reward, ears flick forward, leaning slightly forward, eagerly approaching you, etc.), or does she flinch, lip lick, tuck her body, etc... even for a millisecond? If the soft clicker is not enjoyable, you are again punishing her (unwittingly) for all the behaviors you want her to do. I would recommend just using a verbal marker.

I hope your trainer is able to help you and your dog. Continuing to work on obedience when your dog is shut down and in the corner, and when your dog is not showing enthusiasm for the exercises, is not beneficial for your dog. I hope your trainer is not insisting this.
 

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She knows sit, stay, down, crawl, roll, up, down, over, under, paw and catch. But lately she has been hesitant on even doing those
This is the big red flag. There is something about the training process that your dog is not enjoying, and even afraid of. I understand you are using a clicker and treats, positive reinforcement training. But the dog must decide what is reinforcing and punishing.

Psychologically, if behaviors are being reduced (ie, your dog is hesitant) your dog is being punished in some way.

I hope you're able to figure this out!
 

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Yay, she loves the nosework class. That's great. Obviously that's training too, and she's liking it. Ask yourself what is different there that might help things out.

About the other stuff, take a complete break from 'training', no commands/cues whatsoever (except what you must, like walking on a leash, or whatever), but avoid training. Do drop yummy things on occasion (this in lieu of training) without eye contact and especially without expectations. "Pressure" can be subtle, it can be things you do beyond your conscious control, so I'm guessing that when you are training, you are adding pressure, you are probably worried about your dogs fears, you are worried about the backsliding, you want to get things right, and you want to do better, and all that understandable insecurity and fear is leaking out onto your dog. (I say this from experience, having shut my dog down with hotdogs in his early days).

If she likes to play with you, do that too, but generally dropping great food, and walking away from it, is sufficiently low pressure, you might see a reset as days go by, then you can reteach those cues with new words, or briefly trial the old cues to see her response. Practice a vocal marker (maybe just say the word 'click') and use that as your 'new clicker' once your dog is ready. I wouldn't even do that for the 'break time', make it a real break, as much as possible.

I'm not sure of the class--she sounds not ready for that class--but if she's 'cowering in a corner' can you leave? Station yourself by a door, cheerfully exit, have some fun outside, try again, or just quit the class. Cowering in a corner is a dog having a terrible time. And yeah, I got sucked into bulling through a bad class too, 4 weeks, sunk money fallacy (no refunds, so I convinced myself it was working, it wasn't), it happens.

I now make up a 'fake' dog class by driving to a dog park and pretending it's 'dog class' and training outside of the dog park. For me and mine, this is working. (I like to do agility now and then too).

Good luck with your dog, and relax.
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
She kind of just seems aloof/apathetic at most things. Toys she really only likes a rope toy, anything that squeaks spooks her. She rarely takes treats from us and prefers we place it on the ground in which she will go over and eat. The trainer has us using "yesss" in place of the clicker. She never eats her food unless its really late at night, which we thought was weird at first, but we just chalked it up to her being a night eater. A friend of ours suggested maybe shes holding out for more tasty table foods. Her favorite being chicken and fish.

Our 2nd class is today and I'm going to see how she is because towards the end of the last class she was walking around and taking treats. All the other trainers have their dogs doing commands and honestly I'm just not even sure this is the class for her. This is a reactive recovery class and shes not really reactive. If out on a walk she jus wants nothing to do with other dogs. If they come up to her she will smell them and they will smell her and then shes done. She will bark and growl and lunge if the dog doesn't leave her alone kind of thing. Which is why we thought she needed this class. But looking at how the other dogs are in the class I don't think that's how our dog is. This was also a prerequisite class for agility training which I really want to get her into.

We have a friend who has a dog that we've been going on walks with and off leash yesterday (no one was in the park) she was running ahead and waiting for her dog friend to catch up. Sometimes running back to the other dog, circling him, and then blitzing off again as if to say come on catch up. Out on the walk my GF got her to do paw and sit and last night I got her to sit and treated her, but she still seemed uneasy. She was very thrilled to go down and crawl. Havent tried the paw yet indoors with treat rewards.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
This is the big red flag. There is something about the training process that your dog is not enjoying, and even afraid of. I understand you are using a clicker and treats, positive reinforcement training. But the dog must decide what is reinforcing and punishing.

Psychologically, if behaviors are being reduced (ie, your dog is hesitant) your dog is being punished in some way.

I hope you're able to figure this out!
Before the clicker she enjoyed training. I don't think its the training I think the hesitation is coming from being afraid of the clicker being clicked, even though we don't even have it present. She never had a chance to develop the click is good, click gives me treats association.
 

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Ah, didn't know this was only your first class with the clicker! I'm glad to hear that she is getting more comfortable in the class. Sometimes with more sensitive dogs, they just need more time.

And I agree that the clicker is the direct cause of fear. What I mean by 'not enjoying the training process' is she could have developed some negative associations with the process of training in general, maybe in a specific location, BECAUSE the clicker was used previously... To the point where even if you remove the clicker, she may still be hesitant or fearful.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
We had our 2nd class today and she was an entirely different dog. We got to showcase her whole arsenal of tricks and she was so confident. The trainer used her dog as a bait dog to have our dogs focus on and we'd click and treat when our dogs would show interest, only we used YES instead of click. She was pretty non reactive to the clicks and other dogs.

I'm so proud of her. She even sat and gave paw. We have been trying paw instead of high five. She knows both so it wasn't that big of an adjustment.
 

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We had our 2nd class today and she was an entirely different dog. We got to showcase her whole arsenal of tricks and she was so confident. The trainer used her dog as a bait dog to have our dogs focus on and we'd click and treat when our dogs would show interest, only we used YES instead of click. She was pretty non reactive to the clicks and other dogs.

I'm so proud of her. She even sat and gave paw. We have been trying paw instead of high five. She knows both so it wasn't that big of an adjustment.
Oh God that's terrible. A so called trainer using a clicker?? That's no trainer. It's a dog not a seal and a clicker becomes more detrimental as time goes on, in fact I have actually seen dogs attack it. Most people are in too much of a rush to show what their dog can do but in reality, it's the dog that wants to show off once it understands. After 50 years as a trainer of all breeds including law enforcement let me tell you, all I've ever used is tone of voice and a favorite toy, that's it. Tell a dog what to do and you have a battle of wills on your hands. ASK a dog to do something and it'll do anything you want. The trick is knowing how.
 

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After 50 years as a trainer of all breeds including law enforcement let me tell you, all I've ever used is tone of voice and a favorite toy, that's it.
Wow, musta been a LOT of dogs in 50 years and never a piece of food used. That's incredible.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I don't agree that a clicker doesn't have its place. May not have worked for you and your furry friends, but to discredit a trainer because she uses one is wrong.

It doesn't seem like it worked for my pupper either. I may or may not try again. She is associating 'YES!' with a treat response so that's good enough for me. A click, a boop, a bop, a word, a toy. I think it doesn't matter so long as you are consistent and your dog is responding well to it.

Don't take my disappointment over her not showcasing her tricks as me being in a rush. It was disappointment from a place of my dog is not enjoying this when she previously used to.

I think the trainer is doing a good job at recognizing difficulties and adjusting her program around them. Which I applaud.
 

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Many dogs have issues with the sound of the clicker. I wonder if getting a written tutorial and clicker then going home with a simple lesson plan would be better than passing them out in class where the dogs are subjected to lots of random loud sharp sounds?

I learned how to clicker train outside formal classes and wait until a new dog and I have done some work together before using a clicker. In class my dogs perk up their ears but seem to know if a click was or was not for them and get over it. Most of them are not fans of firecrackers and thunder although they all have been huge fans of food. Possibly hearing clickers going off all around them would have been an issue too.
 

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We had our 2nd class today and she was an entirely different dog. We got to showcase her whole arsenal of tricks and she was so confident. The trainer used her dog as a bait dog to have our dogs focus on and we'd click and treat when our dogs would show interest, only we used YES instead of click. She was pretty non reactive to the clicks and other dogs.

I'm so proud of her. She even sat and gave paw. We have been trying paw instead of high five. She knows both so it wasn't that big of an adjustment.
Awesome! I didn't realize it was only the one class, and now on her second class, she's rockin' it. It's good to hear. The dogs will always let us know how things are going.
 

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Oh God that's terrible. A so called trainer using a clicker?? That's no trainer. It's a dog not a seal and a clicker becomes more detrimental as time goes on, in fact I have actually seen dogs attack it. Most people are in too much of a rush to show what their dog can do but in reality, it's the dog that wants to show off once it understands. After 50 years as a trainer of all breeds including law enforcement let me tell you, all I've ever used is tone of voice and a favorite toy, that's it. Tell a dog what to do and you have a battle of wills on your hands. ASK a dog to do something and it'll do anything you want. The trick is knowing how.
The best animal trainers in the world use clickers for all kinds of creatures. Just because you have been training dogs for 50 years does not mean your way is the only way - or even the best way. Just because something has been done for X number of years doesn't mean that's the only way to do it, and insisting that it is leads to stagnation.

If everyone did everything the same as 50 years ago, this online conversation wouldn't even be happening.
 

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I believe that each animal responds to what they choose to associate with something good. If the dog doesn't like a clicker, maybe you don't need any sound at all. Maybe a toy, or word, a pat or food, who knows? Our beagle was clicker trained. When she went deaf, we continued to train her. Hand signals was really all she needed. And food...lol, she'd do things we asked, but she'd REALLY do them for food! After going deaf we taught her to bring us her food bowl, and a few other things i can't remember atm. lol

The basset hound does not care for food, toys, or noise. He wants me. So, I became his reward as he learned to do something cure with a hula-hoop. The beagle will jump through it, and he goes under it (lol). He used to be afraid of it.
So far our little sheltie (7 months) will respond to clicker, toy, or food. He doesn't care about praise, and is actually one of the most stubborn dogs I've had...and I've always had hounds, who are notoriously stubborn!!! He knows things, he just decides if it's worth it to him or not. "Come" is the absolute worst. He will only do that one if there is a treat!

Anyway, back to yours : ) If it seems like she might like the agility stuff...use that as the reward! Some other tolerable (to her) methods will grow out of that for her, I'm sure!
 

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For some animals it's inappropriate to use a clicker. It can either mimic sounds that are undesirable for a response (rescue and working dogs, etc.) or in our case, our dog is deaf. What I've learned over the years, is that just about anything for sound, can work instead of a clicker. And, if the animal is open to it, just about anything they enjoy, can be used instead of sound. Food, pats, toys, etc.
Clickers are just easier for a lot of people. The more training you do with different species, the more you realize it's just kind of a metaphor for the idea of "event and reward". I've trained birds, rats, dogs, cats, and worked with primates, cattle animals, you name it. A lot of simple-minded animals that reference sound differently than most, will even respond to a clicker...or ignore it. I've seen an alligator, Galapagos tortoise, a tegu "target" to an object (touch their nose to it, on command). They basically learned when they see the target, go touch it, and get something yummy. lol.

There's a lot of ways. Snakes don't even have ears. There's a lot of argument on if they can be trained, but many animals will do things for food. I defy someone to keep my garter snakes from my hand, or the tongs, from all across my house, lol. It many not be "sit up" but it's still a learned response! My point is, it's not always the best way to use a clicker. It's just easier sometimes.
 

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There's a lot of ways. Snakes don't even have ears. There's a lot of argument on if they can be trained, but many animals will do things for food. I defy someone to keep my garter snakes from my hand, or the tongs, from all across my house, lol. It many not be "sit up" but it's still a learned response! My point is, it's not always the best way to use a clicker. It's just easier sometimes.
All animals are food motivated - if they weren't, they'd starve to death. How strong that motivation is while playing silly games with humans is another story, of course.

A lot of people (especially clicker trainers) use "clicker training" as a catch-all term for mark-and-reward training, a technique for operant conditioning that involves using a discrete stimulus (e.g., the "click") that indicates that the animal did a thing that will results in a reward more or less immediately. Regardless of whether or not they respond to a clicker specifically, this type of training can be used on pretty much every animal. The marker obviously has to be able to be perceived by the animal, and but it should also be relatively distinct from other stimuli that are present at the time, and should exactly predict the appearance of the reward, otherwise it's not very useful. The marker can be a word, or a light (used for pigeons).... even using a clicker, the click may not be the thing "marking" the correct behaviour if the trainer has sloppy mechanics - it can end up being a motion, like reaching into a treat pouch!

You can train bumble bees and gold fish using mark-and-reward training, so sure it would work on snakes. Doesn't necessarily mean they can be trained to do the same things as dogs, but the same general method applies.


Anyway, I totally agree that the clicker itself is not always necessary, but my previous point wasn't about whether or not you can train animals without a clicker - it was about "real trainers" using clickers or markers (they don't use clickers for seals either, they use whistles).
 
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