After all the posts that FallRiver made concerning training (I have printed out all of them and started to study ), I have a question. How often do you use the clicker / treat for actions that the dog does and you want to reinforce as a "good action" while not really in a "training mode"? Last night when Zakk was out of the kennel "hanging out" with us, I would click and reward actions that I wanted to see again. I made sure that these actions were not combined with another action so I wouldn't confuse him. Am I doing the right thing? I want to make sure that I don't flood him with new "good actions" but I do want to reinforce / reward him so hopefully he will do them again later.
I really like training with the clicker and Zakk seems very receptive to reward training with the clicker. We just have to set up a system in the house so that a clicker and treats are always available to us to reward him for "good actions".
FallRiver (and others) can probably help you better regarding the clicker/reward. I didn't clicker train mine, but I know what you're talking about when you want to reinforce good behaviors, or behaviors you want to see more of.
I do that with mine, did it as a younger pup and still do it at times. When I'd see him doing something I liked, I'd say 'good boy, good _____', just either the praise/words or praise/pet, or praise and treat. It helped to reinforce the behavior, and associate the specific word to his action (good down, if he was lying down).
This may sound odd, but the biggest reinforcer I've always used was stay. I know stay normally means sit/stay, but I guess I've generalized it. He stays in the yard, and the big field next to it, well. Once in a while, though, when he's in the yard and watching something...say ducks or geese, or kids, are walking up the lane in front of the yard....while he's watching, I'll just give him a reminder 'stay', not a stern voice, just a regular tone. I know it may sound odd, but it's just a reminder that he's to stay in the yard and not run to the kids or whatever has his attention. If he sees a dog loose and wandering in a field across from us, I'll remind him to stay. It's just to remind him not to take off after anything, but to stay in the yard. After awhile, while he's still watching, I'll say 'good boy, good stay'. He understands.
If he's in the field and I want him to come down to the yard and stay in the yard, I'll call him and say 'stay in the yard'. He understands what it means, and will stay in the yard and not go back into the field.
You can get wrist clickers with loops to keep the clicker on hand. Bait bags are useful as well, or just stock each room with a jar of Pounce treats.
Curly, you bring up an interesting and very important point.
I try as much as possible not to put a lot of behaviours on cue. The reason is, once we put them on cue, the dog is less likely to offer them.
So here are important life skills that I never ask for but patiently wait for.
1. If my dog wants to go outside I stand by the door and wait for a sit...I don't ask for it. The moment the bum hits the ground, I praise and open the door. If he gets up the door closes again until he holds his sit and I release him with OK! I don't want to hve to ask them to sit every time, so I merely wait until they offer good behaviour and then I reward it.
2. If my dogs want dinner, the above rules apply. I just stand there with the bowls in my hand until I get the sit, then I place the bowls in front of the dogs. If they break their sit, I quickly cover up the bowl. They get to eat when I release them with OK!
3. Whenever I am walking my dogs and they check in on me, I either feed them, praise them, pat them, play a game with them, or find something interesting to 'smell' with them. I don't ask them to check in.
4. Whenever my dogs lie down on their beds, I praise them, feed them or go to them and pat them up.
5. Whenever I am walking my dog and he looks at me, I praise and reward with food or a quick game, or an oppotrunity to sniff.
6. Insert other behaviours you want here!
This is the makings of Indirect Access and Impulse Control. Your dog is learning that you provide the access to most of the wonderful rewards that he wants, and he quickly learns that he can play you like a slot machine! He thinks he's controlling you, you think you're controlling him, but what matters is that you are both happy and he is well mannered without nagging or coercion.
Do this enough and it will start to expand. He will learn that sitting or looking at you gets him stuff, so when you are walking and he sees another dog, he is more apt to look at you to give him that reward than he is to just go get it himself. He is less likely to counter surf because he has learned that the best and easiest way to get what he wants is to just give you what you want first (sit, look, etc).
Now, we are progressing toward impulse control. This is the most important skill you can teach your dog. Sit, down, recalls, etc., are no good if your dog does not have the impulse control to do them when there are distractions or when he would rather do something else. Step by step, we are teaching our dog that the quickest and best way to get what he wants is once again, to give us what we want first, so he is less likely to bulldoze past you to get to what he wants.
My youngest dog is 10 months and I really haven't taught him much of anything yet (aside from marking and getting his WC) as I have two others working in utility and time has been scarce. He is a very mannerly and well-behaved puppy and I could confidently walk him anywhere off leash and not have him leave my side. This was all accomplished by genuinely appreciating any attempt at offering me the above behaviours and he has learned that his biggest pay-off will always involve me somehow so he is not inclined to stray very far from me
I always tell my students that these two concepts are the most important things they can take away from class. If you have Indirect Access and Impulse Control, everything else will fall into place.
So in short, how often do I use the clicker / treat for actions that the dog does and I want to reinforce as a "good action" while not really in a "training mode"?
Every waking hour of every day. 8)
To err is human:To forgive, canine."
Thanks for the reply!
It seems like I am on cue with Zakk's training. I am always quick to compliment him and give him a "good boy, good ____" and a good rub down when he demonstrates an action that I want. The biggest things that I want for Zakk are to be good around people and to have a rock-solid recall so we can take him places that are fun and let him run (such as going to the beach for a swim) and know he will come back when called.