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Clicker Training: One Year Later

It's been about a year since I went to the two day workshop and learned how to use Clicker Training with Julio.
Clicker Training
is a method of using positive reinforcement to teach. It uses a direct reinforcer, like food, as a reward, but first uses a secondary reinforcer (a clicking noise), to mark exactly what the learner did to get the treat.
At first, I didn't buy that clicker training would be helpful for Julio and I. To be honest, I was only going because one of my best friends was coming to participate in the workshop, and this would allow me to spend more time with her. But surprisingly, the training method made sense once I got to the workshop, and Julio responded really well. The more I learned, the more I saw how clicker training could actually make a difference in our relationship. It could also smooth over some challenges we have because of my RSD (Julio wasn't originally trained to walk with me and a support cane).

A year later, I am still so glad I know how to use clicker training. I've noticed differences in three different areas of my life: How I teach Julio, how Julio handles stressful or new situations and how I understand behavior in myself and other humans.

First, I feel that I teach Julio better. When I have a new route or a new concept I need to introduce him to, those small exercises of teaching targeting and teaching tricks like "give me five" and "give me a paw" give me a better idea of how he learns. Because I am looking for ways to reinforce him, I now know what works best to make him happy. And, because I am focusing on the good stuff he does, he has motivation to do more good things.

This leads into how Julio handles stressful situations. I've noticed that the fact that he knows I am looking for things he does well. And because he knows that, he is less worried about making mistakes. That doesn't mean that I just let him make mistakes in guidework, I don't let him run me into things, for example. But if I'm teaching him a new skill (like finding a chair), there comes a point where I just let him show me things, but don't react. Soon, he's eager to try, and the stress is less. And, because I know how to reinforce him, I can help him when a situation is stressful.

Finally, there is the understanding of behavior which is so important for me as a person and me as a social worker. I understand more about reinforcing positive behaviors, the psychologically harmful effects of pain and tons of other concepts which I did not know before. And because I understand these things, I sometimes don't take some things as personally as I might have in the past.

In essence, one year later, clicker training is still helping me in so many ways. I'm so glad I went to the workshop, and that I have this tool in my toolbox as I continue on our rney.


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Mar. 21st, 2008 02:53 am (UTC)
I am going to TRY to move to clicker training with Jess. It will depend a lot on how I can tolerate the sound. Maybe they make clickers that are a little less . ..clicky. . **laughing**

I'm reading the TEAMWORK books right now. . .and wow. .. I really REALLY like them. I think they will be a great help with training her.

She and I spend a lot of time together. My husband bought her for me to help me heal after J's death, so she's my girl. I think we'll do well as a team. We already are a pretty good one. She likes to help me with things already, and is always trying to find things to do.

I agree with you about learning about behavior in dogs and what things do and don't do really helps to relate to people. Jess will not take insincere praise. It doesn't count with her. She completely ignores it, actually LOOKS offended, and will not do what you ask the next time. But sincere praise, wow. .. she'll do anything for that. . .and she can TELL.

It's so good to have you on my journal. I'm learning a lot from you. . . .and I really enjoy reading your entries. **smiles**

Mar. 21st, 2008 03:09 am (UTC)
First, thank you for commenting on my posts, I really am enjoying reading your posts and comments, and am glad I am getting to know you. I am so glad you and Jess have a great relationship like you're describing. That is truly wonderful, and dogs can be great at helping us cope. Your comment sparked a few ideas, which I hope will help you.

First, if you do decide to do clicker with her, I would suggest the iClick clicker. It's easier to click, I suspect it will be more comfortable for your hands. In fact, you don't have to use your hands, it's pretty versital, and you could maybe click it against something (your upper leg if that's less painful) to avoid making the pain worse. It doesn't require a lot of force, and it's quieter than the "box" clickers, which are harder to click. You can see pictures at the web site I linked in this post.

The other thing is that I highly recommend the book "Don't Shoot the Dog". It's by Karen Pryor, and full of information about behavior and the principles behind clicker training.

Whatever you decide, I wish you good luck with it, and as always, I'm here if there is anything I can help with. I'd be glad to help with any questions you have.
Mar. 26th, 2008 11:18 pm (UTC)
Training a human.
I'm happy for Julio and all of the good progress he's made.

If I tried ANY sort of training method with all of these felines - I'd be standing there and looking silly. "You clickin' at us? So? Whatever you want, well... we don't really care. That clicking sound is bothering us - so could you just stop doing that? Now, can we just go back to power-napping?"
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