Wednesday, December 1, 2010

How About Clicker Training?

Nothing. Yup, I know nothing about this clicker training thingy, but it sounds interesting if you and your dog have the patience and the discipline. I've heard, read and saw clips about it.

Why not I learn more? It is also used for birds, horses and sea animals. And even if I don't use a clicker, the things on positive reinforcement for training behavior could be of importance to a pet owner like me. " No knowledge is useless," says Jennifer Lawler.

Clicker training is an operant conditioning (also called respondent conditioning) method for training an animal using a clicker (or small mechanical noisemaker) as a marker for a behavior. The method uses positive reinforcement - it is reward-based.

For training purposes once the behavior is sufficiently reliable on the use of the clicker, a cue (e.g. a verbal command such as "sit," or "down") is added to the click, and as the response transfers to the new cue, the clicker is no longer needed (e.g. stimulus control is attained).

A clicker is just one example of a conditioned reinforcer (secondary reinforcer) or "bridge". Technically a stimulus from any sensory mode may become a conditioned reinforcer (ex. light, smell).

The marker can be any signal that the animal can perceive, so long as the signal is brief (to prevent the problem of imprecise timing) and consistent (to prevent the problem of variations that may confuse the animal).

For large sea animals the marker is usually a whistle rather than a clicker. However, not all conditioned reinforcers are sounds. Goldfish and birds such as falcons and hawks can be trained using a quick flash of a flashlight as their "clicker". Deaf dogs can be trained with a vibrating collar.

Misconception: "Dogs become fat with clicker training because they get too many treats."

Part 1 of the solution to this problem is either to use a portion of the dog's regular diet as the training treats or to use reinforcers other than food.

Part 2 is to remember that a training treat for a Labrador should be about the size of a pea or an M&M. Smaller dogs get even smaller treats. Larger dogs get only slightly larger treats.

Food is not the only reinforcer that can be used in training. A "reinforcer" is anything the animal is willing to work for in the current situation.

Common non-food reinforcers include toys, attention, and the opportunity to do something the dog wants. For example, for a dog who wants to go for a walk, putting on the leash can reinforce sitting. Going through the door can reinforce the dog who wants to go outside. Being greeted by someone is the BEST reinforcer for a dog who wants to meet and greet.

Source: Wikipedia

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