1. WELCOME

    To join the conversation, please register. It only takes a minute!

To clicker train or not

Discussion in 'Dog Training: Principle and Practice' started by Jojo83, May 9, 2018.

  1. Jojo83

    Jojo83 Registered Users

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2017
    Messages:
    1,589
    Location:
    UK
  2. Joy

    Joy Registered Users

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2014
    Messages:
    4,079
    It’s interesting that the article says that the clicker was shown to have a benefit in nose-targeting. I’m inclined to think that it is because in that trick you have to mark a very specific moment which is easier to do with a clicker. Play dead and chin rest require duration so perhaps not such a need to be exact with reward timing. I would train a spin just with luring and wouldn’t use a clicker for it because you are looking for a continuous movement.
     
    selina27 likes this.
  3. JenBainbridge

    JenBainbridge Registered Users

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2016
    Messages:
    2,927
    Location:
    Darlington, UK
    I’ve personally never really liked a clicker. I tried using one early on but I never seemed to have it to hand and ended up getting a bit confused with my hands and clicking at probably the wrong point!

    Stanleys the first dog I’ve ever trained and for what I want him to do I don’t think a clicker is hugely necessary. We’ve muddled our way through and ended up as a dysfunctional little pair that understand each other anyway :)
     
  4. JulieT

    JulieT Registered Users

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2013
    Messages:
    20,175
    I honestly do not know where to start...there are so many problems with the presentation of this - I haven't read the actual study, let's hope it wasn't as appalling as the write up suggests.

    I'll just pick out one point. I could pick out another 10 or more:

    "There were no differences between the clicker-plus-food and the food-only group in terms of..... measures of the dog’s impulsivity....."

    Well, no. :D It's SO bog standard knowledge that novices with clickers make impulsivity worse until they have learned about how to put something properly on cue....

    So what? :D

    Are we going to dismiss the single thing that has advanced positive reinforcement training by miles because novices need a little bit of time to use it properly?

    I'd say no. A big fat NO! :D
     
  5. Pilatelover

    Pilatelover Registered Users

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2015
    Messages:
    1,969
    Location:
    Coventry
    I use the clicker a lot, it’s been massively beneficial I’ve recently started an advanced clicker training course. Obviously it makes a massive difference that the trainer is excellent and full of enthusiasm.
     
    selina27 likes this.
  6. GaryC

    GaryC Every day is a school day with a Lab pup. Forum Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2018
    Messages:
    92
    Location:
    Fife, Scotland
    I started using the clicker in early training, but didn't like it, partly because I never always had it on me like I do a whistle, and partly because of not being sure when to use it in different circumstances. I moved on to part of his kibble allowance as a treat for doing something right, and once he gets very good at a specific command, I start to go to treat every 2 successes, then every 3 etc, until he is only randomly getting treats, but not all the time.

    I am very keen to get him to work for me, rather than for food, although I'm cheating a bit by starting with the treats on each command.
     
  7. Beanwood

    Beanwood Moderator Forum Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2014
    Messages:
    7,269
    Personally, I do wonder if the commentary may have been a bit misleading. I haven't read the latest piece of research by Lynna Feng, but I have read some of her other work around clicker technique and perception vs application, published last year:

    "Comparing trainers’ reports of clicker use to the
    use of clickers in applied research studies:
    methodological differences may explain
    conflicting results"
    Lynna C. Feng* Feb 2017

    There is a huge amount of information in the study...but one part of the conclusion (amongst others..) I found very interesting..Quote from above study:

    "The varied
    opinions on how to introduce and use a clicker and the
    contexts in which they are appropriate may also
    contribute to differences between practitioner
    experiences and empirical findings. As such, it is
    essential that these factors be considered before
    empirical studies on clicker-type reward-predicting
    signals can confidently be used to inform applied practice.
    Follow-up studies expanding on these initial
    results are therefore required to further elucidate the
    mismatch between industry experiences and empirical evidence."
     
  8. snowbunny

    snowbunny Registered Users

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2014
    Messages:
    15,786
    Location:
    Andorra and Spain
    Indeed. The ineptitude of the subjects' use of the tool shouldn't reflect on the tool itself :D

    Event marking just makes sense. If you don't use it in some form, you are missing out on an opportunity to communicate to the dog exactly what he's earning the reward for.

    Many trainers these days now use the term "clicker training" for training using event markers, whether or not that is delivered with a clicker. Personally, I rarely use a clicker anymore, but that's not because I don't think they have value. I think they have immense value. It is by far the best type of marker when you want to develop a very precise behaviour. I think that, ineptitude aside ( :D ) it is also a hugely useful tool for people who are new to training dogs to learn how and when to mark. I believe a clicker leads you to develop better timing faster than using a verbal marker can. The absolute precision of the clicker is feedback to us as handlers, too, and makes it easier for us to detect when we are early or late in marking.

    It does sound as if you are rather confused about how and why a clicker is used, yes :)

    You don't need to use food as a reward when training. You can use anything your dog finds rewarding, whether that's a game, the opportunity to sniff, to roll in disgusting stuff or to just run around. But you do need to use a reward. "Working for me" isn't a thing. Here is a thread with links to articles that you might find interesting. https://thelabradorforum.com/threads/the-use-of-food-in-dog-training.13496/
     
    Pilatelover likes this.
  9. Boogie

    Boogie Supporting Member Forum Supporter

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2014
    Messages:
    8,416
    I’m not allowed to use a clicker with the pups as they use them in Big School and they don’t want us puppy walkers to mess things up by using them wrongly.

    My problem, anyway, would be having the clicker handy when it was needed!

    But I do try to use my voice like a clicker. I say ‘good’ in a clipped and clear way and in a timely manner, as an event marker, just as you would a clicker. Not quite as good but, hopefully, the next best thing :)

    .
     
  10. selina27

    selina27 Supporting Member Forum Supporter

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2016
    Messages:
    3,192
    Location:
    Herefordshire UK
    When I went to the first force free class with Cassie the trainer preferred to teach us to use a word as an event marker, I think because it was one less thing to do with our hands at that point, and also because we can always have our voice with us ( for the most part anyway!) I have learnt to use a clicker with Cass since though and I like it. I got a couple of cheap ones that can go on my wrist --BUT the trouble is that she knows when I put it on because it's quite noisy and I can see her go into "ok I've got to be doing something mode". I think I should get a better one.
    I think though there is definite potential for misuse in novice hands.
     
  11. snowbunny

    snowbunny Registered Users

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2014
    Messages:
    15,786
    Location:
    Andorra and Spain
    I don't think that's a problem. She's just taking it as a cue that a training session is about to start. I use "ready to work?". There's no difference :)
     
  12. selina27

    selina27 Supporting Member Forum Supporter

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2016
    Messages:
    3,192
    Location:
    Herefordshire UK
    Very good point! And I've been thinking to myself that not having taught her when a training session is starting was an omission on my part, and there it is all the time, thank you. This forum is so wonderful.

    Perhaps I could use the words "are you ready " when I put it on so that in time I can start a session without it on in time.
     
    snowbunny likes this.
  13. Beanwood

    Beanwood Moderator Forum Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2014
    Messages:
    7,269
    I think getting the dog ready to work/train/play is quite important and getting that bit right so you are both sharing the same mindset I have found invaluable, not only in progressing in my training with Bramble, but I am also thinking about other scenarios, such as differentiating training clearly from a bimble in the park and vice versa, just something I am thinking about right now.
     
    selina27 likes this.
  14. edzbird

    edzbird Supporting Member Forum Supporter

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2015
    Messages:
    5,189
    Location:
    Isle of Man
    I love the clicker for training new behaviours with precise steps in them, I find it speeds up learning. I don't use it often any more, but now and then, on an off lead walk, I'll use it to mark any check-ins - it's easy to mark the event when Coco is too far ahead to treat, he'll wait for his treat once he gets the click.. We still find it useful.
     
    QuinnM15 and selina27 like this.
  15. GaryC

    GaryC Every day is a school day with a Lab pup. Forum Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2018
    Messages:
    92
    Location:
    Fife, Scotland
    100% confused. But it is only one of a few tools that can be used.

    I appreciate you don't have to use food as a reward, but it works for us and gets great results. I think it is a thing. If you can get the same results without reward, then the dog is doing it for you, not the reward.

    I also disagree you have to use a reward. You don't have to. Although it does help initially, and to be fair, they should get a reward when they do well.
     
  16. snowbunny

    snowbunny Registered Users

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2014
    Messages:
    15,786
    Location:
    Andorra and Spain
    Nope, you don't have to, and I didn't say you did. It is simply the most convenient way to train behaviours because you can get the greatest number of repetitions in a short amount of time using food rewards rather than other forms of reinforcement. But if you're not rewarding then, in order to maintain a behaviour that doesn't come naturally to the dog, you have to use punishment - or the behaviour that you taught using rewards will diminish over time. This is why there's no concept of doing it "just because you ask". Behaviour change happens through reinforcement or through punishment. That's behavioural science 101. It's up to you which of the quadrants you choose to use to promote that behaviour change, but the dog has to be motivated either through the promise of reward (through a reinforcement history) or through the expectation of punishment. Rewards can be environmental things, too, so I'm not saying you have to a 1:1 reward ratio with food or other "obvious" rewards. For example, once I've trained my dogs (by using food) to not push through the door until they're released to do so, I no longer have to use food because the reward is getting to go through the door; the food is simply accelerating the learning process. The behaviour won't degrade because there is still a reward for that behaviour. I don't have to use food at all in the process of training in actual fact, even if I want to stay force free. If I chose to use negative punishment, I can simply close the door when they try to move through it and open it when they back away. They will learn the same lesson and I've done that successfully in the past. I just now find it quicker and preferable to train it with food and positive reinforcement in the first instance.
    Similarly, I train steadiness with my dogs by using food, so I can throw a tennis ball into the greater beyond while all three of them stay in a sit and then I can release one of them by name to go and find it. The food helps me to build a solid behaviour with duration and to help them learn that taking turns is good. But I don't have to keep using the food once the concept is strong because the reward is having the opportunity at some point to take their turn to find the ball. If, on the other hand, I decided that one of the dogs would never get the chance to find the ball, then that dog's behaviour would eventually degrade because there is no reinforcement. I hope this makes it clear. To an outsider, it may seem that the dogs are working for nothing, "because I asked", but that's not the case. They have a strong reinforcement history which is being kept topped up on a variable reward schedule.

    Do read the thread I linked to and the links within. That will explain far better than I can.
     
  17. GaryC

    GaryC Every day is a school day with a Lab pup. Forum Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2018
    Messages:
    92
    Location:
    Fife, Scotland
    I will read it - have bookmarked it for later.

    I feel most of that post is what I said earlier. I will retract slightly as 'good boy', a ruffle around the head and neck to say well done etc. is actually rewards. Which is where I am now. I was more coming from an angle of physical treats than rewards. Getting myself in a muddle now :p
     
  18. snowbunny

    snowbunny Registered Users

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2014
    Messages:
    15,786
    Location:
    Andorra and Spain
    Well, being in a muddle is just part and parcel of Labrador ownership.

    Or is that a puddle?
     
    selina27 likes this.
  19. JulieT

    JulieT Registered Users

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2013
    Messages:
    20,175
    I have absolutely changed my view on this point - in the context that long ago on this forum (before it was only about puppies weeing inside :D ) we debated whether the only real advantage of the clicker was precision.

    I went through a journey that went:

    Clickers are really cool....
    Oh, but I can get the same impact by just saying good...
    Are clickers really about super precise behaviour then?...
    Luring, not shaping is where it's at....
    So do I need a clicker at all?

    But, what I realised is that no, a clicker is not just about precise behaviour - although it is massively valuable for that - but the clarity, and history, and consistency, of the clicker makes it massively more valuable that a verbal word.

    If you have built up - over years - this clean history of the clicker, then it's the most powerful thing.

    If you haven't, or have messed it up and contaminated it, well...tough luck then! :D
     

Share This Page