How to condition clicker- do I just click and give a treat?
There is a little bit more about it- if you want optimum effect!
Giving information to your dog (immediate feedback to his actions) is the most important part of communication, when training your dog
The best we can do to convey information, is to create a magnificent marker!
A marker is a signal that solely identifies an action the dog performed. Since we know that immediate reinforcement (of any kind) is the most effective way to teach the dog, we are able to be very precise to identify an action we want to reinforce.
To create a marker, you need to make a choice of what it should be. For example, a clicker, a whistle, a “Yes”, a finger snap….etc
Once you choose the kind of marker you like, you should condition the marker as such, by simply displaying it, and providing the best reinforcer (food, toy, etc) AFTER A SMALL PAUSE.
As the marker always precedes the appearance of the reinforcer, the marker will gain an announcing effect. Thus at the time the marker is displayed, the moment of successful behavior can be very precisely identified.
To make it very clear, the marker is a signal for “hey dog, this is exactly what you did right- and know that we looked at this picture I just took for you- I will pay you”
The marker is NOT a signal to make the dog perform a specific behavior !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Commonly people think that it “gets the dog’s attention”…Noooooooooooo!
The marker needs to be the camera that you take a picture with. The click compared to the shutter noise of your camera is a perfect analogy!.
Behaviors are oriented in the direction the reward is coming from!
Simple fact, if I always feed you in the kitchen, on certain signals( taking the food dish, filling it with food, certain time of the day) you will already run into the kitchen, because you have learned that this is where the reward will be engaged in.
If I want you to look direction South- I will have to make sure you don’t get rewarded in North direction.
That being said, only a marker such as the clicker will make it possible for the dog to understand that looking North will be marked and the reward could be given in South direction or anywhere else.
Click – pause- feed
Do not let any other action on your part precede the appearance of the treat!
The click will not be as meaningful. If you reach for the treat or show it to the dog BEFORE the click, the click will not be recognized as an announcement. The reach for the food will be the announcement, if it precedes the click..
Once you see the dog reacting to the noise of the click by orienting itself to you, you can assume that the connection between click and treat is coming has been established.
From here on, you should click for any behavior that the dog displays, and follow with the treat for every click. He moves his head, he stops moving – is standing still, he moves one food, etc
It is advisable NOT to click and treat for two behaviors of the same kind in a row. You will be taking a chance to then associate click with a certain behavior. Again, the click should not be associated with a specific behavior.
Being clicked for a different behavior every time, he will learn to try something else, different from what he just did. He learns to operate!
If we click three times turning his head to the left, he will try that more likely again. He will more likely NOT try anything different as “turning his head to the left” was so successful before.
In order to create more activity, the treat can be tossed away after the click instead of being provided from you directly. Then immediately watch for new behaviors that could be clicked for after he took the treat off the ground.
Another version of creating activity could be to toss a treat not preceded by a click. Click while he goes to fetch up the treat. Click for the action of going away from you. And he will fetch up the treat after the click. So the principle of treat follows after the click is executed correctly.