Thursday, 9 February 2012

Conditioning to a clicker

I've decided to use a clicker to train Diesel, for consistancy and to improve the bond between us. Up until now Diesel had very basic training, he knew 'sit', 'come', 'stay' and 'paw'.

It seems he has mostly been lure trained (i.e shown the treat then followed it into the correct position until he sat, then given the treat), so I knew from experience that this could make clicker training difficult, as dogs who are lure taught often wait to be shown what to do rather than thinking for themselves and offering behaviours to shape (taking a small movement and building it up into a more complex behaviour or trick).

Having clicker trained my first Husky I knew the basics, but having struggled to shape any behaviours with her (having no known about clicker training until she was about 9 months old I had lure trained her) this was going to be a learning curve for both me and D.

 The idea behind clicker training is that once you have taught the dog that click - treat, you use the clicker to mark wanted behaviours, so when the dog does something right, you click and the dog knows that a reward will follow. Using a clicker means that it is easier to mark the correct behaviour, as it is the click which tells the dog it was right, not the treat (which takes longer to give than clicking). It also makes it easier to train dogs without having a treat in view, many dogs (having been lure trained) will not respond to commands if they can not see the reward, whereas clicker trained dogs know that treat will follow click even if they can't see one.

So using most of his dinner (not all otherwise he would be upset when the others got theirs!) we started. First I had to condition him to know that the click = reward, to do this I simply clicked then immediately gave him a bit of kibble (he loves anything edible, more stubborn or fussy dogs might need something like ham or chicken to get them to work at their best). After 5 or so repetitions of click/treat (C/T) I stopped and ignored him (he was sat waiting for the next one) and waited until he got bored and wandered off, then I clicked again and he came running over looking for his treat, SUCCESS! So he now associated the click with a treat, this ment we could start to teach behaviours.

There were only two things I had planned to train him during that session, and figured that doing those would use up the amount of food I had set aside, but the boy does have a well functioning brain somewhere in that big skull of his and he was picking things up so quickly that we ended up learning five!

Watch me (a focus command)
Down (lay down)
Touch (target my hand with his nose)
Gently (take food gently)
Spin (spin 360° to his left)

I'll go over these in seperate posts as I think this one is long enough already! But I am very very proud of him, and he is looking pleased with himself too! Already I can see he is responding to me better throughout the day and I hope this will be a big help when it comes to working with him outside around other dogs.

Bye for now,


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