Nickie Coby (puppybraille) wrote,
Nickie Coby

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.
Tags: clicker training, disability related, grateful journal, guide dogs, life milestones, relationships, social work, tool box

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