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Clicker Enthusiast with New Ideas

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From Andrea Kiss:

Thank you very much for the great internet site and all the help and advice I got from you to train my dog. Originally I set out for searching on internet about dog training because there wasn't any classes nearby my location, and because I was terrified by the training class I visited. (I still remember an owner beating his golden retriever, because she was afraid of one of the obstacles on the ring.) I thought I could never train a dog. Then I found your site and purchased the great book of Peggy Tillman (which should get an award in itself for the simplicity and clear design of it) and started to play with my dog.

We both have great fun! I was amazed of how fast she learns and how hard she is able to work for that tiny slice of bacon or sausage. And I learned a lot about dogs as well.

The concept that dogs relate they behavior to the place where they learned it was a great discovery for me. I'm sure it's not a new thing but I tested out all my "dogwise" relations and friends and nobody seemed to know about it. I also checked the available books on dog training about this subject in my district library in vain.

It was of great importance for me because it explained the fact why dogs seem to forget something they do perfectly well at home, when we take them out to the street. I believe it's a great source of frustration for the owners and it results in a lot of correction and agression from the owners towards the dogs.

I also learned to break down the skills into small steps, and reward each little achievement towards the goal; which I found a very useful skill not only for dog training but everyday life as well.

And I found a very significant difference between the effect of the clicker training and the effect of traditional training on the trainers. I mean that with traditional training you are conditioned to look for mistakes and correct them as they appear. But each mistake makes the trainer more frustrated (and her animal too). With clicker training we mark the successful tries, and each click is a joy for the owner (Yess my dog CAN do that).

It occurred to me that each time I have a clicking session with my dog and she achieves something I really wanted her to learn (she sits for the first time for example) and I click her, it's like taking a picture with the camera. I remember every single detail afterwards, like which place was it, which time of the day, what was my body position, what was my gesture, how did the dog begin the movement etc.

I believe that the clicker marks the event also for the person who clicks and therefore, when you have to re-teach the skill in a different location or "go back to kindergarten" you have all the details of what how and where was the last step your animal was successful. Which of course makes it a lot easier to make the dog succeed again.

And naturally it's much more positive for the trainer as well to give rewards after every click then to shout NO, NOT, for all the training session.

So all in all, I found clicker training a very rewarding activity for myself as well, so it's not only my dog who gets happy and excited when I pick up the clicker but me too. And that's what makes all the difference.

Note from Karen Pryor:

In the letter above, enthusiastic new clicker trainer Andrea Kiss offers us some wonderful insights that I think are worth noting. For example:

  1. We know dogs need to be acclimated to doing their work in new places, but Andrea restates it from the dog's point of view. If dogs really do associate what they learn with the place they learn it, then it makes sense that in a new place the behavior disappears. Instead of being frustrated-"But he does it perfectly at home…" you might expect to 're-teach' any new behavior a few times in various environments. ( In my own observation, even just changing direction in your own living room, facing the dog north, east, south and west, 'reteaching' the behavior four times, can make it easier to take that behavior on the road. KP)
  2. We think of the click as being a camera, capturing the instant of the good behavior for the dog. Andrea points out that perhaps it also functions as a 'camera' for the trainer. You get a complete mental picture, which you can remember, of the behavior and everything around it. The fact that the dog did the behavior is reinforcing for the trainer, she points out. So perhaps the click is too; and perhaps the vividness of the experience captured by the click actually helps you remember what you did, making it easier to 'reteach' the behavior in another place. What do you think?

Happy clicking!

Click as a 'camera' for the trainer

I hadn't thought of this before, but it makes perfect sense. If the click is processed by the animal in the more primative parts of the brain, we have those same structures in our brains.

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