Shaping with the Clicker

One of the core training techniques with clicker training is called shaping, or free shaping. There is also micro-shaping which is amazing to watch, and the clicker expo had a presenter… Alexandra Kurland who clicks with horses. And in a nutshell, she shapes the horses to carry their bodies, with a rider, so that their heads are down and their balances is better so that they will not damage their spines.

My definition of shaping is something like this: you watch a dog, and when she does something you want, you click. So if you want to shape a turn to the left (this is in the clicker books, I think) if the dog even slightly moves her head to the left, or even looks to the left, you click and treat. The dog will then be wondering what caused that click, and will move around trying different things. This dog will need to be clicker savvy first, though, and throw out behaviors to see what gets the reward.

Eventually the dog will figure out that turning her head to the left gets a click and treat. Then you up the ante, you stop clicking the head moving to the left, and the dog will try more, and move to the left, maybe even step, and you click treat that.

That is basically what shaping is. Micro-shaping would be clicking the slightest muscle movement, or twitch, on the dog’s left side.

This can take a long time in the beginning and takes a lot of patience. In example, Tatum is not a big offerer of behavior. Lucy, Levi and Chase dance all over the place wondering what it is I want from them and will mark. Tatum isn’t that savvy yet. But I had a perch box out today, and when she would sniff the box, I would click and throw a treat on it.

What I eventually want of her is to stand on the box with her front feet, and move her back end around it. But we start very, very slow. Eventually she put one foot on the box, yay! That is what I wanted, so click and treat. I pushed her off in play to get her drive up, and she came right back, put one foot up… click treat.. she put the other foot up… click treat! We were getting there!

Tatum is not very animated, so with micro-shaping what I need to do with her is just click any movement. To get her used to offering. So if she is just standing there, and I am just sitting there waiting for her to do something, if she moves her head or nose or muscle, I click and treat, to get that movement going.

This is the beginning. You can get a dog to do a perfect heel pattern as you move along with clicker training. Amazing stuff! And I did have to see it in action to really understand it! You increase with small steps. The more clicker savvy the dog becomes, the more behaviors the dog offers, the faster it goes.

And it is amazing to watch the process. Amazing!

Wow the Clicker

The clicker expo, as I have said before, blew me away. I do look at my dog training in a whole new light, now. I don’t know if I can convey to you what I feel, as although I like to think I am fairly good at writing, sometimes getting my information across is difficult for me to do.

Plus, I have talked to a number of people now who do use a clicker to train, but seem to be in the same place I was, and the clicker is just a tool to mark behavior. Where clicker training is an entire training concept that molds and shapes a dog in an encouraging, positive way and gives the animals control over their environment, and helps us to communicate with an entirely different species in an amazing way.

The Karen Pryor Clicker Expo is an amazing way to really get the idea of clicker training. Clicker training uses a clicker as a marker for behavior, and also uses positive reinforcement to not only get the behaviors you want, but to mold and build a relationship with the animal.

One of the statements that struck me the hardest was that clicker training has been used in the exotic animal world for years and years. But some of the trainers, when they came to dog training, were told, and believed, that dogs are different. Dogs you use punishment to train. It’s the amazing, open minded people who challenged that belief and realized that no, dogs are exactly the same. And the people who are involved with police dogs, search and rescue dogs, military dogs… those that are changing the dog training world, slowly, to use clicker training, are the ones that impress me the most. Because those fields are so traditionally punitive. It needs to change. It is changing. It will change.

I could go on for pages and pages about clicker training, but I’ll keep my posts short as I go through the knowledge that I have absorbed. Amazing knowledge. And I’ll post up some links to some great sites, too.

I have been clicker trained

I am home. I am amazed. I see the world, dog world and the rest of the world, in a completely different way now.

I get clicker training now. I get it. I hope I continue to get it. I know that as my experiences are no longer sharp, that my memories fade and my motivation diminishes, but I sure hope a lot of it sticks in my brain and in my heart, and I can develop the skills to be a real authentic clicker trainer.

Clicker training is not just click and treat, marking the behavior and shaping. That is a big part of it, but it’s not all of it. Watching the speakers was amazing. Kathy Sdao and Ken Ramirez were my favorites. They were amazing speakers, very energetic and got their points across wonderfully.

There are some key points to clicker training. You shape the behavior, or capture, using the clicker. And then after the dogs knows the behavior, you put the cue to it. And then after the behavior is reliable, you go to a variable reinforcement schedule. And then, you know a well trained clicker behavior because:

The dog always performs it on cue, and
The dog ONLY performs it on cue.

I missed those points. Didn’t understand them. And now I understand them so much better.

I am tired, so this is a short post.. I’ll post more later about what I learned, and I’ll read over my notes. I need a nap!

At the Clicker Expo

Well I am at the clicker expo! And I found free internet. Not wireless, but the hotel has wired internet access in their computer room so I hooked up and here I am.

I am amazed at the clicker expo. The first speaker I watched was Ken Ramirez and not only does he know his stuff, he’s an excellent speaker and knows how to capture and hold his audiences interest.

I will write more when I get home, but the primary thing I learned form him, and remember, is that you have to train the secondary reinforcer. Train them as a behavior. And then follow the certain steps to make them be as strong as primary reinforcers. I really liked that concept.

Many of the trainers here only use shaping. They do not use luring at all. It is a very interesting concept, as I have used a lot of luring.

That first lecture was worth the entire trip. I was also impressed with Kathy Sdao, she is also an energetic speaker with lots of great ideas. I wish I could take regular classes with her, or with one of the clicker trainers here, because doing helps me learn a million times more than reading, or just watching a short lecture.

But in a nutshell, I think clicker training will revolutionize the world of animal communication. It amazes and fascinates me, how we can communicate with other species. It also excites me and thrills me, and I just love it. I think over the next years, and decades, we are going to see more of a revolutionary way of not only communicating with other animals, but relating to them, respecting them, and realizing they are as sentient as us human animals.

Actually, clicker training is already used in training and communicating with exotic animals and sea animals. I’ve heard from a couple of the trainers here who have worked with exotic and sea animals, that they used clicker type and positive reinforcement with them, then came to the dog world and were told that dog are trained differently, with correction and aversives, and they just drank that up and believed it. But now they are questioning that, and dogs are, finally, getting the type of training and care that they deserve.

Very very interesting. I just love it all, and have so much more to absorb. I’m like a sponge, and I want to drink it all in!

In will try to get online tomorrow night as well, we will see how it goes. 🙂

Clicker Expo!

Okay so tomorrow afternoon I am flying outta here and heading to the Clicker Expo in Los Angeles. I am excited. It is Friday through Sunday. I’ll fly home Sunday night.

Not only am I looking forward to learning a heck of a lot about clicker training, I’m looking forward to it being 60 degrees in California! I’m so tired of the cold around here. Though I do like the long dark nights. But they will have those there as well.

I hope to buy some good clicker products, and I’m really looking forward to the labs and seminars they will have. I will try to blog from there, but not sure how much time I will have. I’ll have my camera with me, too, because it’s new and I just have to take it, and I want to get some good pictures while I am there.

I do wish I was taking a dog… and Tatum just almost would fit in my carry on suitcase.. she tried super hard to scratch into it when I was packing. 🙂 But alas, I don’t think she’d like to be cramped in there for two hours!

Anyway.. I may or may not blog before I go. Or while I’m there. Either way, should be fun!