“Our dogs are always doing the best they can with the knowledge and understanding they have
in the environment they are in” – Susan Garrett, Say Yes Dog Training.
Debi believes in a positive, force-free approach to training. The key to successful training is to make the dog an active participant in the training and effectively communicate what it is we want them to do, rather than punishing them for what we don’t want them to do.
By controlling the learning environment, we can encourage the dog to make good decisions and be rewarded for doing so. There are no bad dogs, just dogs that find behavior we deem undesirable as innately reinforcing. However, positive is not permissive. Our job is to make desirable behavior more reinforcing and to communicate this effectively to the dog. The owner’s focus should always be on what the dog is doing right and not what he is doing wrong. We want to live with our dogs in a place called ‘Do Land’. Dogs don’t understand “don’t” because “don’t” is a concept. A more successful approach, one that is not conceptual but rather absolute, is to approach your dog training challenges from the land of “DO”.
Rather than putting all of our energy into continually coming up with strategies to stop our dogs from doing something (resulting in frustration for our dog and us), we train our dogs in strategic layers to build a strong foundation and create an abundant reinforcement history for behaviors that we want to see. In Do-Land, we help the dogs to find joy in the things that we want them to do and we create a dog that on their own will choose to do what we want. There’s no force, there’s no yelling, there’s no correction, there’s no blame. There’s just joy.
We use a learning principle called the Law of Effect. “Behaviors that are rewarded increase in frequency, intensity, or duration.” Anything’s PAWSable training methods use rewards from three categories: Food, Toys, Interactions. Students are taught when and how to use them, and most importantly, when not to use them. The dogs learn to play the lottery of random reward. Reprimands are not part of the training process for the following reasons:
- They are often associated with the trainer
- They do not tell your dog what ‘to do.’
- They create fear and anxiety
- They inhibit learning and creativity
- They can cause and exacerbate behavior problems
- If used to teach a behavior, the behavior is performed only to avoid punishment.
There are many myths about dogs and how to train them, many of these being based upon tradition. Anything’s PAWSable Dog Training uses methods based upon modern science, the study of how learning occurs. By following scientific principles of learning, we can be clear to our dog, and ‘clarity is kindness’. Our dog’s confidence will grow as he learns to ‘trust the process’.
One of the methods I use is called ‘Clicker Training’. I use this together with shaping, targeting and choice based games.
What is Clicker Training?
“Clicker Training“ is a simple way of saying ‘training with a marker signal’. Using a marker signal is a science based teaching method where the marker identifies for the animal when it is doing the right thing, (usually from a small noisemaker called a “clicker” but it could be a whistle, a tongue noise, a flashlight, a thumbs up, a verbal ‘yes’ or anything else that is consistent and stands out) . The marker is always followed by something the animal wants—usually a treat or a toy, but could be permission to go visit a person or another animal.
The scientific principle of Operant Conditioning states that since the animal was positively reinforced for his behavior, he is likely to repeat the action. All animals respond to the science of marker training, from the smallest spider to the largest whale. It is a force free method of communicating across species.
What kinds of behaviors can be trained with a marker?
This clear form of inter-species communication is an effective, safe, and humane way to teach any animal any behavior that it is physically and mentally capable of performing. Other marker trainers routinely train horses, dolphins, bears, sea lions and some train such divergent species as lobsters, spiders, guinea pigs, etc….any animal can be trained (yes even humans–then we call it TAGTeach.)
With dogs, marker training can be used to teach basic pet manners such as “sit”, “come”, “down”, “stay”, and “settle” but it can also be used to teach the most precise, advanced obedience exercises. It can be used just as effectively to teach tricks such as “shake a paw”, “spin” and “bow”. Marker Training can be used to teach dogs to calmly accept grooming, nail trimming, and veterinary procedures. Many trainers use marker training exclusively when working with ‘problem behaviors’.
“Clicker Training” is about:
- inter-species communication
- learning how to achieve your goals using positive reinforcement, trust and respect
- the dog becoming an active participant in its learning
- having fun with your dog
The primary goal of Anything’s “Paws”able Training is to enhance the relationship between dogs and their human families. We will work together so you can learn the skills needed to positively train your dog. We will help you apply the scientific principles to work with your dog on a wide variety of skills.
What are the benefits of Clicker Training?
Clicker Trained animals are always ready to learn new behaviors. They come to love the process of learning. They remember behaviors years later because they were ‘aware’ as they learned them, rather than acquiring them without awareness. They develop confidence because they have been successful in the past.
They are enthusiastic because they expect the consequences of their success to be pleasurable.
Training Questions People Often Ask
Q: Will I have to use a marker forever?
A: No, absolutely not. You don’t even have to use a ‘clicker’, you can use any consistent, salient sound to ‘mark’ a behavior. Once a behavior is on cue (command), you no longer use the marker UNTIL you want to train a NEW behavior. The marker simply is a clear, common ‘language’ between you and your dog. The marker is ONLY used to teach NEW behaviors.
Q: Do I have to use food forever?
A: No, you use food until the behavior is a habit. Then use other reinforcers….a reinforcer is anything your dog wants including treats, toys, going outside, cuddling with you, sniffing a tree, etc. Our goal is to have our dogs working for us on or off leash, in or out of the house, and whether or not you have a clicker and a treat. The more you reinforce in the beginning, the stronger the behavior will be.
Q: Why can’t I just use food or praise? Isn’t that still positive training?
A: Yes it is, but there are a few special things about the clicker that make it more effective than just a treat or praise:
- The marker acts like a tiny camera in the dog’s mind. It takes of picture of the exact moment he did the right thing. When using other positive training methods, treats and praise are usually delivered after the dog has performed the behavior making it harder to link the reinforcer with the action in his mind. This is why some people call clicker training ‘precision training’…it is very precise and fast.
- When you use a marker signal, your dog will learn desirable behavior amazingly quickly. The marker provides a consistent, non-emotional marker so your dog always receives the same information. The marker is also distinct from other signals in the environment.
Q: My daughter wants to train the dog, can SHE use the clicker?
A: Absolutely, anyone can teach with a clicker. Dogs trained to pay attention only to a “dominant” voice will often not “listen” to children in the family. With a clicker, everyone can play a part in teaching the dog. Clicker Training is fun for everyone, including the dog!
Q: Do I always have to provide a treat after a click?
A: You have to provide a reinforcer each and every time. ‘Click’ means the dog has earned something he wants—usually a treat or a toy.
Q: If I don’t use a command, how will my dog know what we are working on?
A: Your dog is undoubtedly very smart but he is not born knowing your spoken language. In clicker training we add the cue (or command) AFTER the dog has learned to do the behavior. In effect, we give the behavior a name once the dog is doing it. We add a name to the behavior, so that you can tell the dog WHEN to do the behavior. This can be a hard concept to get used to but it is extremely effective.
Q: There is so much to know and it is all so new. What if I make mistakes?
A: The good thing about marker training is that it is a very gentle way of training. If we make mistakes, it may take a little longer to train a behavior, but that doesn’t matter to our dogs. Our dogs are very forgiving creatures. Even if you make mistakes, you will not cause your dog, or your relationship with your dog, any harm with clicker training.
Q: Can a dog that has been trained “traditionally” learn with a clicker?
A: Absolutely. “Crossover” trainers are often amazed at the change that comes over their dogs when they switch to clicker training. Previously hesitant and shy dogs become enthusiastic and creative learners. To try clicker training with a dog previously trained with traditional methods, don’t begin with a behavior the dog already knows—try something completely new and fun…preferably a trick, and remember, Training Should Be Fun!