Most dogs love it when the clicker comes out.
Clicker training is the
process of training an animal using a
conditioned reinforcer, such as a
mark a desired behavior, thereby indicating to the animal being trained that it
has done something correct. It was originally used in training animals for which
traditional methods of
obedience training weren't useful, such as
wild-animal shows or
carrier pigeons used for specific military purposes. The animal is first
presented with a sound and immediately given the reward, which can be a special
treat, or a toy. The animal learns to associate the noise with the reward. Once
the noise is conditioned, it is then used to reinforce positive behaviors that
the trainer wishes the animal to repeat.
One of the challenges in training an animal is in letting it know when it has
done the behavior that the trainer is attempting to
reinforce. As a simple example, when teaching a dog to shake hands, the
first step would be to encourage the dog simply to lift one paw. At the instant
that the dog raises the paw, the trainer must let the dog know that it has done
the correct thing. However, the traditional "good dog!" takes so long to say
that the dog might already have lowered the paw again before realizing that it
is being praised. In addition, people's voices, pronunciation, tone, loudness,
and emphasis, and how long it takes to say the words can change, even at
different minutes of the same training session, so that the animal has to learn
to interpret through all of the nuances to understand what the trainer is
attempting to convey.
A clicker solves these problems. It produces a very short sound that can be
initiated and completed at the instant the behavior occurs. The sound is always
identical - same volume, same tone, same length. While
operant conditioning is the formal terminology for clicker training, it is
known colloquially as clicker training because of the use of the
clicker/cricket. Note though, that it is not necessary to use a clicker to train
a dog or other animal with operant conditioning techniques. Any device that can
make a uniform sound and can be activated quickly (such as the click of a pen
cap or the blow of a whistle) will work.
The first step in clicker training is to teach the animal that the clicker
sound means that they will get a reward. To do this, the trainer does what is
called "loading the clicker." Over a few sessions, the trainer clicks the
clicker and immediately thereafter gives the animal a reward (usually a treat to
start with; later, favorite toys can be substituted), clicks again and rewards
again, and so on for about 20 repetitions each session. Dogs, for example, learn
the association very quickly.
After that, the trainer can use the clicker to begin marking desired
behaviors; each time that the animal performs the behavior, the trainer clicks
and, quickly thereafter, rewards. The primary key to clicker training is the
trainer's timing; clicking slightly too early or too late can quickly establish
an incorrect association in the animal's mind.
Pryor, a scientist with an international reputation in the fields of
marine mammal biology and
behavioral psychology, is widely heralded as a founder of clicker training.
Many desired behaviors start with the nose-touch, where the dog learns to
touch an identified target, such as a small piece of plastic, with its nose;
that behavior can then be transported to perform useful tasks or interesting
tricks such as flipping a lightswitch or ringing a bell to go outside.
Training the nose touch begins with getting the dog to touch a target with
its nose; trainers sometimes use a guided method, such as placing a dab of
peanut butter on a small plate or plastic target; others prefer
where the target is placed in easy reach, such as in the trainer's hand between
the trainer and the dog, and the dog is rewarded each time he moves in the
target's direction or actually touches it.
When the dog is consistently touching the target, the trainer progresses to a
target with and without food and in different positions. Eventually, the trainer
can transfer the behavior to a bell, for example by holding the target behind
the bell so that the dog has to touch the bell to get at the target, and then
rewarding the touching of the bell. When the dog is reliably touching the bell,
the trainer now adds the act of opening the door to the reward each time the dog
strikes the bell.
| Alpha Roll
| Dog Attack
| Clicker Training
| Dog Collar
| Animal Communication
| Dog Communication
| Crate Training
| Dog Aggression
| Dog Trainer
| Dog Intelligence
| The Intelligence of Dogs
| Obedience School
| Obedience Training
| Operant Conditioning
| Prey Drive
| Dog Society
| Dog Whistle
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