clicker

  What is Clicker Training?  

 

Let’s first get some definitions out of the way so we are all on the same page. Very important in dog training to always make sure we are all using the same definitions to any terms, constructs or another word is labels.

Marker: A signal that through conditioning indicates a correct behavior that will result in reward. Typically, to be effective, the signal should be within 1.5 seconds of the behavior.

Event marker: A signal used to mark desired behavior at the instant it occurs. The clicker is an event marker.

Bridging stimulus: An event marker that identifies the desired response and “bridges” the time between the response and the delivery of the primary reinforcer. A secondary reinforcer that can be delivered with extremely precise contiguity. The clicker is a bridging stimulus which also includes stimuli such as whistles, clickers and praise words.

Ok now that we have the technical stuff out of the way we will explain in very simple terms. Ever hear a trainer say keep it simple for the dogs so they can learn and get access to reinforcers such as food? Well this is very true and one of the reasons why we use an event marker to keep it simple. Think of it as taking a picture of the behavior you wanted and letting the dog know what they just did was what earned the reinforcer. Which is why we also always hear timing is very important in dog training. An event marker takes out all the confusion when we are teaching, especially new behaviors. Therefore making it simple to understand what behavior they did lead to a reinforcer.

An event marker can be a clicker, sound, word, flashlight , whistle or even a visual signal. The most widely used is a clicker or word such as yes. A clicker is the easiest because it has the same distinct sound every time. We use the event marker anytime the dog does any behavior we want such as a sit. As soon as the dogs behind hits the floor we mark it with our marker and then introduce our reinforcer (food). It is very important to pair the marker with our reinforcer every time. Therefore the marker becomes the bridge to the reinforcer. Easiest way to remember and my favorite way to explain it is, taking a picture of the behavior you liked and marking it with our marker.

The event marker works because of classical conditioning. The marker is paired repeatedly to a reinforcer (food) or with some other very pleasurable activity. Therefore in a short period the marker is associated with a pleasurable experience and becomes pleasurable itself and a predictor of good things (reinforcer). Now we can use our tools such as prompting, luring, shaping or capturing to help teach our dogs all desired behaviors.

Classical Conditioning: Also known as Respondent Conditioning. The process of associating a neutral stimulus with an involuntary response until the stimulus elicits the response.

It doesn’t matter if you cannot treat the dog instantly every single time you mark a behavior. It might take you a few seconds to reach the dog after using your event marker, you should still always give him a reinforcer. One of the benefits of an event marker is the ability to let the dog know what he has done right with precise timing even if you cannot reward within the normal second (timing).This bridging effect allows us to reinforce behavior, even when we cannot get to the dog immediately.

In a short period the marker is associated with a pleasurable experience and becomes pleasurable itself and a predictor of good things (reinforcer). Therefore letting the dog know what they just did was what earned them the reinforcer.

The event marker works because of classical conditioning. The marker is paired repeatedly to a reinforcer (food) or with some other very pleasurable activity. Therefore in a short period the marker is associated with a pleasurable experience and becomes pleasurable itself and a predictor of good things (reinforcer).

An event marker can be a clicker, sound, word, flashlight , whistle or even a visual signal. The most widely used is a clicker or word such as yes. A clicker is the easiest because it has the same distinct sound every time.

Good trainers always set their environments up so they can control most consequences. If our dogs fail to obey a cue a good trainer will take a step back and see why things went wrong. As teachers we have to understand how dogs think and learn. If they fail we take a step back and teach our learners what is expected of them for next time we are in a similar environmental context. See Antecedent Arrangements

Clicker training as been proved to teach almost any animal from dolphins, pigeons to humans. What we are trying to accomplish when teaching an animal is an association with an action after a command or cue. We want to build a connection in their mind that performing a proper action means a reward.

See  How Dogs Learn

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