Is clicker training worth it?

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Is clicker training worth it?

This is a discussion on Is clicker training worth it? within the Dog Training and Behavior forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Dogs category; Hey guys... So I've been speaking with a trainer to work on Mabel's (seven month old springer spaniel puppy) separation anxiety and hyperactivity. We have ...

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Old 10-23-2017, 09:10 AM
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Is clicker training worth it?

Hey guys... So I've been speaking with a trainer to work on Mabel's (seven month old springer spaniel puppy) separation anxiety and hyperactivity. We have decided once she has finished her basic manners class I will enroll her in a recall course so I can be more confident with her off lead, allowing her to run around and burn off excess energy. This trainer has also suggested the use of a clicker, and gave me one for free to try at home. She told me it's one of the quickest ways for dogs to learn and I'm just looking for some other opinions. Thanks so much
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Old 10-23-2017, 09:18 AM
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It works very well when done correctly. During training, dogs can be overwhelmed by what's going on around them. They have new smells, tasty treats, sometimes other dogs are there, and their trainer is saying all sorts of commands and making all sorts of gestures.

The clicker helps the dog in determining what specific behavior you want him to perform. It helps him capture and identify what you want him to do, amid all that chaos.

For example, if you're trying to teach "sit" and your dog just isn't understanding what you want him to do, you can wait until he sits on his own and then "click", say "Yes! Sit!" and give him a treat. He will then start to put it together that the click marked the specific thing you wanted.

Just be mindful that it doesn't really work in group training. You can't expect the dog to make sense of what behavior is being marked for him when a roomful of people are clicking for other dogs.
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Old 10-23-2017, 09:37 AM
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I'm a Clicker Trainer, and when used properly, it acts as very clear communication between you and your dog.

I almost exclusively shape behaviours instead of luring, for a variety of reasons, but the main one being it is fun for both my dog and myself, and the click is paramount to isolating small pieces of behaviours. It's not a magic wand, or remote control, but if you do some reading up on it before you use it, I think you'll be pleased with the results.

I have to disagree about not using it in class. In my experience, both as a student and as an instructor, the dogs very quickly pick up on which clicker they should pay attention to, as it is the only one that produces a reward. (Although admittedly, I have one student who despite my repeated attempts to explain this isn't how you use it, when her dog does something amazing, she squeals and clicks like 10 times in a row, which DOES cause all the dogs to look over... )

There are lots of other ways to get the behaviour, and clickers are certainly not the only way. Lots of people use verbal markers, hand signals, or just treats/rewards and have friendly, well-mannered, obedient dogs. It's one of many ways to get the end result you want.
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Last edited by Shandula; 10-23-2017 at 09:39 AM.
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Old 10-23-2017, 09:50 AM
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Keep in mind the 'clicker' is just a tool, clicker training is a method. Shandula is describing the method. Many trainers use or recommend clickers but may not follow exactly the same method (shaping only, yep, we are dog geeks).
As for it, 'is it worth', why not try it out and let your dog decide?
I trained my previous dog using a verbal marker sound (instead of using a 'clicker' I used my vocal chords for a short sharp 'gud!'). It worked fabulous, I could see that it marked a precise moment in time, and it left both hands free, nothing to juggle.
For my current dog, the same tactic is somewhat more fuzzy, so I do use an actual clicker for some specific training tasks but I would still find it hard juggle during the course of a day or a hike or leashed dog walk. I keep on handy though, and I really think it's worth giving it a full chance and seeing if it's right for you and your dog. You can also practice a vocal marker sound (even saying 'click'), but clickers are very cheap, and there is no problem with using a clicker & marker word, so no worries about what happens if you 'forget' your clicker.
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Old 10-26-2017, 07:47 AM
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I go to three big training centers for ongoing obedience. I use these mostly for proofing my own training. None of them use clickers. Personally I can't be running around like a Mexican hat dancer. We are in the fields, car show parking lots, bank, pet store, service garages, hot rod shops and various hardware stores. I train multiple commands for various things. Recal is voice, hand signal, whistle and flashlight. I can't use a whistle in class so I just make a sound like "tteeeee", not very loud. Often just a whisper level. Sit, down, and stand are one hand at my side. None of this sweeping the sky stuff. Sit is just a wiggle of my index finger. I don't use a heel command at all, just which foot I start out on.

Use a clicker if you like and are comfortable with it. I just don't see how you can reward or mark with it when you have your hands full,if grocery bags for instance. I just use my voice praise. Very specific tone and verbiage.

Just my opinion

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Old 10-26-2017, 11:14 AM
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There you go - varying opinions.

When teaching something new, most of the time, I'll use a clicker. With a reactive or aggressive dog, I'll always use a clicker.

When I started, I went through the process of juggling lead, clicker, treat - and various other things - and I found it hard, but that's like any other process when you're learning (remember learning to drive?).

I would suggest that you talk to your trainer and ask her to demonstrate what she means. If you like it, go for it. Works for me.
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Old 10-26-2017, 11:46 AM
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Artdog does not use the clicker, but the the method and voice in place of clicker. I do something similar, and using my voice instead of the clicker works well for me also. Its my understanding that the clicker is mainly used cause its faster than some people can use their voice anyway?
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Old 10-26-2017, 12:15 PM
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I've done what Artdog and Sthelena basically described. I did buy a clicker for my current dog when she was a pup and gave it a try and can see the merit in the use of a clicker versus a verbal marker. However since a clicker lacks in modulation and a verbal marker can be altered based on the degree of "success", I chose to rely on using a verbal marker. Kind of like, "you're getting warmer" "yes" as you are shaping a behavior compared to when the dog nails it for the first time and my verbal marker changes to a "YES!" mission accomplished. I suppose the same can be done with a clicker and using a verbal marker when the dog connects the dots. I think the modulation of a verbal marker as the dog closes in on the goal is something the dog picks up on over time and punctuates the moment when the dog nails it. But, this could be done in other ways I suppose.

My opinion is basically, use whatever form of marking progress which works best for the individual and their capabilities to convey a consistent well timed marker so the dog gets the idea. At the end of the day, it seems the key is consistently accurate timing corresponding to the dog's actions for the task at hand.
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Old 10-26-2017, 12:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Shandula View Post
I'm a Clicker Trainer,
Stupid question for you but what the heck. I'm a big advocate of letting a dog know that "success" is not always measured strictly by completion of a defined/specific goal no matter how small or significant. At times, it is the dog's effort which needs to be marked as well even if it isn't necessarily considered a "success". I guess the old " an A for effort" axiom. Does clicker training allow for anything similar regarding the use of the clicker or is it solely reserved for progress?
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Old 10-26-2017, 02:41 PM
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I actually do use a clicker (the tool) now for Sonic to train in some specific circumstances. For him, it adds clarity, a precise moment in time.

For my previous dog, Dynamo, I used a variety of vocal markers, one was my 'click word' (gud!) and another a bridge word. For her my voice had the same effect as a clicker (yes, I ran the experiment).

For Sonic, the clicker adds clarity. I use it with him for trick training, shaping exercises and to mark completion for things that I don't want him looking at me for (<--did that make sense?) as in send away to a wall. I use the clicker for that so that he will listen for the mark, ditto for wraps so he understands what part of the maneuver I'm asking for, but not for things like fetch that frisbee, or heel, but if I was going to compete (never, just an eg) I would use the clicker to clean it up, that sort of thing.

So for me it is decidedly not an either or, but an 'it depends'--I'm like that about a lot of things though.

I'm pretty physical about my rewards though, so once I get going, the tool needs to be in my pocket.

Seriously though, using a clicker doesn't mean your dog will 'forget' your voice, you can train for both, use both, and use your voice (if you have good voice control) in place of a clicker.
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Last edited by Artdog; 10-26-2017 at 02:45 PM. Reason: so longwinded, oh well, added stuff, checked spelling
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