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Learn The Secrets of Clicker Training - Jack Russell Crazy Issue #09
June 07, 2010
Unleash Your Dog's Potential with Clicker Training
First of all, my apologies for taking so long to put together this edition of the newsletter. I have been undertaking a more thorough study into the ins and outs of clicker training, trying to find the best material available on this method of training and looking deeper into the ways clickers can be applied to training Jack Russells. As I mention in my ebook, clickers are not necessary to train the most basic elements of behavior. They are most useful when it comes to teaching more complicated activities that require your dog to perform a series of behaviors together in sequence. Clicker training can also help speed up the teaching of basic commands, so it's handy if you don't have a lot of free time for training.
In my studies I have come across an ebook that lays out clicker training in a very accessible, easy-to-understand way. The ebook immediately drew me in because of a value I share with the authors: that the best way of training is to use positive reinforcement as much as possible. In other words, you train by rewarding good behavior in your dog, rather than punishing bad behavior.
I’ve talked at length in my ebook and on my site about why training through punishment is ineffective for Jack Russells. The personality of the Jack Russell is resistant to pain and punishment - punishing them often only makes them more resolved to misbehave.
The authors of The 4 Secrets of Clicker Training show a keen awareness of this factor of dog training. They explain step by step how to use the clicker to reward natural behaviors displayed by your dog, and then ‘shape’ those behaviors into commands that you can use in everyday life. The commands this book covers range from simple retrieving exercises through to teaching your dog to open the fridge and bring you a soda (yes, this can de done, even with a hyper Jack Russell. That’s the power of clicker training.)
Advantages of Clicker Training
What’s the advantage of training with a clicker, compared to training purely with voice and hand signals? Because the clicker is a short, sharp sound, you can pin-point target the behavior you are rewarding. This avoids confusion in the dog’s mind as to which behavior is being rewarded, helping to speed up learning and avoid mistakes.
For instance, imagine you are teaching the 'Sit' command. If you say “Good dog” and reward as your dog stands up from the Sit position, he will think you are rewarding him for standing up - not the Sit itself. Timing is crucial, as the authors of this ebook emphasize. Using words can take some of the accuracy out of training - and you may not even be aware you’re making these mistakes. If you have commands you’ve tried to teach your dog but he just doesn’t quite 'get it,' this may be the reason why.
Likewise, the clicker can help speed up the learning of basic commands. In my experiments, I’ve always found that dogs pick basic techniques up a little faster when you have the behavior-marking accuracy of the clicker in your training arsenal.
The other training tool that is thoroughly covered in The 4 Secrets of Clicker Training is the target stick. This is a subject I touch on in my own ebook, but I haven’t gone into great detail about it because its use is so closely tied to the clicker. A target is used to help 'shape' your dog’s behavior, creating actions that the dog wouldn’t normally do on its own. You can then reward these actions and combine them into chains of actions - which is how you end up with behavior like retrieving a soda from the fridge.
If you already have a well-trained Jack Russell and you want to provide more mental stimulation (which of course is just as important for JRTs as physical exercise), The 4 Secrets of Clicker Training is the best clicker training guide I have come across thus far on the Internet. Likewise, if you are having difficulty getting your dog to master basic behaviors, or you keep experiencing backslides in training, this book could be the answer to your prayers. It includes a checklist of each behavior, with a list of the steps in each 'chain' of behavior, so you can record and measure your progress.
A Clicker Training Example
Let’s look at an example of where clicker training can be used to teach a behavior that would be virtually impossible to teach by any other means. Let’s take the example I mentioned: retrieving a drink from the fridge.
You can see immediately why using punishment would be ineffective for teaching this behavior. You can’t punish the dog for not opening the fridge, or not picking up the can of soda, because the dog has no idea that it what you want it to do.
Even with positive training methods without a clicker - rewarding the dog for each part of the exercise that he gets right - it’s very hard to let the dog know both what you want it to do, and what he is being rewarded for. How would you naturally get your dog to open your fridge? It’s not a natural behavior you could expect the dog to offer, so it has to be built up, piece by piece, through use of a target and clicker.
While this example is purely “just for fun,” you can immediately see the practical applications of clickers and targets if you have any intention of entering your dog in competitions or trials through the JRTCA. This type of training takes your dog’s potential to new limits.
To learn more about the benefits of the 4 Secrets of Clicker Training ebook and see a video of the system in action, Click Here.
Sharing Your Jack Russell Stories
I want to say a big thank you to everyone who has participated in the Jack Russell Lover community over the past few weeks by contributing photos and stories to the site. Keep them coming on these pages:
'Til Next Time...
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