September 08, 2007

Intro to clicker training

Notes for a workshop I gave at the ADAA Camp. They came from Bob Baily via Dani Weinberg and Helix Fairweather.

How to Teach a New Behaviour

1. Get yourself organized
Prepare small, soft, easily delivered treats or decide on another reward. Practice clicking and delivering the treat until you can do it smoothly and quickly.

2. Warmup
Start each training sessions with a few rounds of Clicking Attention. Just click and treat if your dog is new to clicker training, or ask for a few simple well known behaviours that you can click and treat.

3. Get the behaviour
Capture – Watch your dog and click and treat if your dog offers the behaviour.
Lure – Coax your dog into performing the behaviour with a strategically positioned treat. Only lure two or three times then let your dog figure it out.
Shape – Click and treat ever closer approximations to the behaviour. First step might be look at the target, then move towards it, touch with nose, press nose against it.

4. Change the picture
Start helping your dog generalize by changing your position, orientation, distance. Sit, stand, turn sideways …

5. Give it a name
When your dog is doing the behaviour intentionally and predictably, give the cue while the behaviour is happening. Then gradually give the cue earlier, until you can give it before the behaviour starts.

If your dog offers any behaviour other than the one you asked for, do nothing. Wait for your dog to figure it out, then click and treat when your dog gets it right.
Once you have built up an association between the cue and the behaviour, if your dog offers the behaviour when you haven’t cued it, ignore! Then immediately give the cue and click and treat the repeated behaviour.

6. Make it harder
Start delaying the click and treat, one second at a time, to build duration.
Raise your standards and only click and treat those instances of the behaviour that meet your new standard. You might ask for faster, further, longer, straighter … Work on one criterion at a time.

Go back a step if necessary to keep the dog’s success rate high.

7. Take it on the road
Ask for the behaviour in new parts of the house, garden, street, suburb … Practice in increasingly distracting locations, and introduce distractions to familiar locations.

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