Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Clicker Training Part 2: It's All About Timing

We hope you had fun practicing delivering treats! Practicing the timing of your clicks is just as important, if not more important, than delivering treats. We've said that using a clicker is similar to using a camera - it captures a moment in a behavior. To make sure you're capturing the exact moment, you need to time your clicks to correspond with the behavior your want. Click too soon or too late and you may end up reinforcing a different behavior. Be sure to click during the behavior and not after it's completed. For example, let's say you want your dog to touch you with his nose. You should click the moment his nose makes contact with you. If you wait until after he moves away, you may be reinforcing not touching you - standing, sitting, or whatever the dog happens to be doing right after he touches you. Timing is essential.

Here are some exercises you can practice with a partner to work on your timing.

1. Many of our commands are based on actions we can see, such as sit, stand, come. This exercise will help you time your clicks based on actions you can see. You'll need a tennis ball or a ball that will bounce. Have your partner drop the ball from varying heights. Try to click the instant the ball hits the ground. Repeast the same exercise, only this time have your partner toss the ball into the air at varying intervals. Try to click when the ball reaches its highest point.

2. Sometimes, such as when we're training hearing dogs, the click will be based on physical touch. This exercise will help you time your clicks based on touch. Have your partner touch your arm at varying intervals. Try to click the instant your partner touches you.

These are not the only exercises you can do to practice clicker training. Some of our puppy raisers practice by clicking the behaviors of actors on TV. If you're going to try this, select a specific behavior, such as walking toward another character or picking up an object. For about 5 minutes, focus on watching for only that behavior. As soon as the actor performs it, click. To make this game even more fun, you can treat yourself with a piece of popcorn or snacks every time you click accurately!

Have fun practicing! Next week we'll continue with tips for using clicker training with your dog.

1 comment:

  1. Great tips!

    I know that in some of her clinics, Alexandra Kurland gives everyone watching the lesson a clicker and has everyone looking for moments to click. I find watching when training videos, it can be very helpful to click along.

    I'm going to have to try the tennis ball thing!


    Mary H.