To Use the Clicker -- And When Not To
When we started with Diesel I was trying to use the clicker outside for all sorts of things (loose leash walking, attention etc.). Diesel wasn't, however, interested in treats when we were outside nor did she seem to notice the sound of the clicker much. I tried using "you're allowed to go forward" as a reward instead but I couldn't tell whether she "got it" or not, whether I was really reinforcing something I thought I was. I felt I was not in control. So I stopped using the clicker outside. I concentrated on our clicker sessions at home, trying to focus on observing my dog and above all, myself. I used praise and treats (if she showed interest) outside. She seemed to respond more to praise than the clicker outside.
Now I've started using the clicker outside as well and am using it pretty much too. All of a sudden it makes a whole difference. I have learnt to observe situations better, I'm able to concentrate on what I'm asking from Diesel, I'm in control. Example: All this time I've tried to reduce her pulling when she sees another dog, I want to reward the tiniest bit attention she gives to me. I started with praising and letting her go forward if she slowed down etc. It worked but slowly and with varying success. Then suddenly, everything was forgotten. She started pulling MORE when she saw other dogs like all of our previous training seemed to have vanished. I decided it's time for the clicker! First time, I clicked every time she stopped whenever I stopped and we continued, next time I clicked whenever she turned her head towards me and we continued. Now I wait her to take a step towards me. This has worked very quickly. I'm in control. I've learned to be confident of what I'm asking from her and *stick to that*. I don't let anything else to distract me. I can now tell going forward *is* a reward to her and she understands she has to do this before she can do that. I tell other people I won't let Diesel to greet their dogs before she looks/comes to me first. All this didn't happen outside some weeks ago. Mainly because I was too distracted, I was uncertain of what I'm really reinforcing and I'm afraid I wasn't consistent even that I tried to be and actually thought I was.
This all applies to our sessions at home as well. It was just so much easier and happened smoother/quicker inside since I could control the environment and surroundings at home. Outside I can't. One of the biggest problems for me is that I have no way of increasing distractions gradually when we step outside the front door. We just have to live with that and I need to be more patient than ever..
I guess what I'm after here is that I've learned the basic handling of the dog/clicker/situations to the point I'm more confident and can be more precise and consistent with the clicker even when there are many distractions. I know what to look and when. I also can tell when I don't feel like that and won't use the clicker, just praise/food instead.
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List and Site Owner: Melissa Alexander, mca @ clickersolutions.com