Clicker Training

August 22nd, 2005

I thought I'd update everyone on the new training I've been doing with Josetta. It is called clicker training and to put it in the most basic terms, you use a sound (anything from a real clicker to the click of a pen) to mark behaviors you want. You teach the dog that the sound means the dog has done what you want by paring it with a kibble or something the dog finds very high value. It is basically opperant conditioning. The clicker is a rectangular box with a little metal tab that you push down on. It makes a "click click" sound when you push down on it. Eventually you can use tongue clicks. Clicker training is similar to the whistles they use when training whales right Duda?

I first introduced Josetta to the clicker when I wanted to just train her to do some extra things for me. I started out by showing her what the clicker meant and then moved on to getting her to target my hand. each time she touched my hand with her nose she got a click and a treat (hereafter a C/T". Obviously she tried all the tricks in the box to see what could make mommy C/T and I really noticed her drive and motivation go up. We were only doing it in the apartment at first but then we got brave and took clicker training into the real world. In early January I took off the training collar just as an experiment to see how things would go thinking that I'd put it back on at the first sign of trouble because afterall, I'm no dog trainer! She's had a flat collar on ever since! I was soooo scared because I thought Guide Dogs was going to have me for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack time all at once! I had extreme butterflies when I finally had to break down and tell them what I was doing because they would have found out from the "Blind Vine" sooner or later. Ya, so blind people are a bunch of gosips! Just today I was out with the little monkey and had taught her to target a particular door with a C/T last time I went there for lunch and she targeted it no problem. I have stopped her whining in the crate, taught her to help retrieve things I drop, got her to accept grooming more easily, and made her a little more focused on me when she sees distractions like my dad. She now targets the buttons for opening doors and she even hit one the other day. I also don't get the sore neck anymore because as some of you know it only took doing a correction wrong to send me into headache mode!

I have found that focusing on the positive even when there is negative behavior has trickled down into my own life. I used to get really uptight with Libbie when she did something wrong but now when Josetta does something I assume that she either has not remembered what I expect or that she's just being Josetta and I tend to ask her for a behavior I know she'll give without fail which is usually her sit. I give her a C/T and rework and usually by the second or third time she's got it. Today she was very distracted by my friend for some reason so every time she pulled I took her back, asked her to sit and then asked her to heal. As soon as she healed she got major C/T and praise and do you know that after doing this twice she walked to my front door in perfect heal position. She is a very active clever dog and I find now she is constently looking up at me which is what you want as a handler. Many sighted people think blind people never have this sort of eye contact with their dogs but Josetta is living proof that this is nonsense. I also don't get upset as easily when something goes wrong with her and I have even had people ask me to help them with their dogs. I'm interested in doing this but also scared!

The other big thing that I've done lately is become very interested in environmental issues. I've always been concious of the environment but I am even more so since I've been having issues with mild asthma. I use cleaning products that are environmentally friendly and yes the baking soda and vinegar get a lot of milage in my house. I've started using environmentally personal care products and some friends from work and I are making our own soaps and lip balms. I'm a nut about recycling and don't expect Christmas wrapping paper this year!

Other than that nothing too exciting is new. I'll basically just write in here when I feel like it. It is mainly so those of you who don't have regular access to email and stuff can keep in touch. For all who wonder, I do not have a boyfriend or anything yet. Gosh, you'd think I would have by now but I guess guys don't like dogs or they think I'd be high maintenance or something. Not really actively looking though because that usually doesn't do much good. I'm working casual at the city hall and trying to get into clicker training as a side line. Still playing flute and drumming when I can. Haven't ridden a horse in goodness knows how long. Too expensive! Plus people give me a hard time and say I can't ride! Whatever! They are stupid! I'm just sick of horse people telling me I can't do things and treating me like I'm stupid. I'm safer around horses than them because I move slower. Oh well. Oh and now they try tell me clicker training is nonsense but you can actually use it with horses so one day I'll have to get my own horse and try.

Oh stupid computer, this paragraph was supposed to go before all this mumbo jumbo but I'm too lazy to fix it so here is the rest. I must say that Josetta was a wonderful dog before clicker training but I think this just makes us work well as a team. I am a firm person who believes in dicipline but I needed another way. I don't remember learning too much from teachers who threatened to punish me even in the mildest way or who didn't tell me what they wanted and expected from me so I figure my dog won't either and if I can communicate with her more effectively with this then let's go for it!

Ok, that is it for now. I just wanted to tell you all about clicker training because you'll hear a lot about it in the future.

From: Michelle Creedy's web journal