By this point you should have your clicker ready to go. We will move on to tuning your dog into it shortly but first I want to let you know exactly how positive reinforcement works in the mind of your dog, and why.
A dog learns in a few different ways. Reinforcement and punishment are common practices in dog training, we will not use punishment during the next few weeks but it is important that you know the terms and exactly what they do mean.
We are going to concentrate on only two of these learning processes, the act of positive reinforcement and that of negative punishment;
· The first is the learning process that occurs when the dog carries out a behaviour which triggers what he sees as a favorable response, in his immediate environment, so he learns to repeat the same behavior in the hope of triggering the same result.
· The second is teaching the dog that he may lose something precious to him, even temporarily, if he persists in behaving in a certain way (this comes up more in the later weeks)
Positive reinforcement actually means the act of strengthening a behaviour by adding something to it. It does not necessarily mean giving an obviously positive result though, such as a treat or toy. This means that anything at all that your dog sees as a favorable result will teach him to repeat the behaviour he was carrying out at the time!
Clicker training is positive reinforcement taken to another level.
When we tune a dog into a clicker, which we will do shortly, we are establishing the clicker as a reinforcer. The click sound is ideal for this because it is so sharp that it can pinpoint a behavior perfectly which we can’t often do with voice. The clicker is known as a Secondary Reinforcer to the dog’s behaviour and the food that the dog gets, every time he hears the click, is the Primary Reinforcer to the behaviour. A primary reinforcer is something that relates to the dog’s basic needs such as food or sleep.
A secondary reinforcer is something that the dog has learned to relate to a primary reinforcer. It may sound a little complicated but it needn’t be. Let’s get going and do some practical stuff to clarify.
Tuning to the Clicker
Tuning your dog into your clicker will take a few sessions of teaching him that when he hears a click he is to expect a treat. The more training that you do with this the more effective your clicker will be.
Clicker training treats need to be really small. Tiny enough to swallow quickly and big enough to get a taste. The smaller the treats are the keener your dog will be. Think of how chocolate effects you, one square leaves you wanting more yet a whole block will leave you satisfied and maybe even sick.
Start by pressing the clicker and giving your dog a treat and repeat this 20 times. Then put the clicker away and stop. Repeat this three times a day for three days and by the end of the three days your dog should be tuned in.
Test whether he recognizes the sound by pressing the click when he is not expecting to hear it. If his head whips round and he comes running for a treat then your dog is tuned into the sound and we can begin clicker training.
Things to remember;
1. Your dog will now repeat everything that he is doing when he hears a click, he does this in the anticipation of provoking another click. So if you use the clicker to get your dog’s attention or to call him back then you are actually reinforcing the behaviour of not paying you attention or of running away.
2. The clicker as a reinforcer will stop being effective if you stop giving the dog a treat every time he hears a click, so even if you mistime a click it is important to still hand over a treat
In the second half of this week, and only after successfully tuning your dog into the clicker, I would like you to use the sound to teach your dog to focus on you. This is really easy, it’s simply a case of rewarding the dog with a click and a treat every time he looks at your face.
Please let us know how you get on with this, we would love to hear from you. Plus remember, if you get stuck, do ask or discuss with Pets Please and we, or your group will most certainly be able to help.
Most of all have fun! See you next week!
Wednesday 1st April 2015