Hello, Cindy and Everyone, Cindy, welcome to the group. This is a great place to ask any questions you may have about how to use clicker training as a blind person. I have appended below the series of beginning clicker training lessons provided to this group by Sandy Foushee. These lessons have proven very useful to many of us, and I hope they will get you started on the right path as well. For those who have read and used Sandy's lessons in the past, the version below is recently edited by myself and approved by Sandy. You may want to reread the lessons just to brush up and perhaps find some useful hints for further enhancing the relationship you have with your working partners. Best to all, Ann SANDY'S BASIC CLICKER TRAINING LESSONS By Sandy Foushee (Originally posted to the VI-Clicker-Trainers e-mail list) Edited by Ann Edie, January, 2007 INTRODUCTORY LESSON: Clicker Basic Concepts Supplies needed: 1 Dog--Any breed or mix, any age or color, any hair length, with or without tail! 1 Clicker or a distinct voice cue The reason many use a clicker is that it is a sharp, distinct sound, one that is unique to the dog and easily heard. Does this mean that you HAVE TO use the clicker to employ the principles of clicker training, or as it is more accurately called "Applied Operant Conditioning"? NO, you can use a distinct word with a distinct inflection if you want. Voices are a little less precise, but most dogs learn to compensate. And with folks whose timing isn't perfect, as many of us with VI are, the only consequence of a late marker is that you might teach something you hadn't intended. 20 tiny treats--Treats should be the size of a pencil eraser or small pea for a Lab sized dog and smaller for a tiny dog, and should be counted out exactly. Treats should be soft and "gulp-able" without need for chewing. They also should be high value treats--the kind you have to count your fingers when they take them, figuratively speaking. The reason for the tiny size is to not fill your dog up with food or upset his normal diet. The reason for them to be soft and gulp-able is so that they don't get so engrossed in the treats that they forget what it was they got the treat for. After a week or so, once your dog has the idea that a click means he did something you liked, you can start substituting his regular food when he is in a low distraction area, like at home. Some basics on this type of training: The Primary Rules for Clicker Training One click equals a reward. Even if you accidentally click for a wrong behavior or too late, give your dog a treat. When we first start training a dog, it is not his fault that we goofed. If our bosses trained us wrong, we would still expect the paycheck, (our reward). DOGS DO WHAT WORKS. Repeat that several times to yourself. If jumping up and down on you will get you to pay attention to him, then he has effectively taught YOU to pet him when he jumps up and down on you. For every behavior that a dog does repeatedly, there is a reward. Sometimes it's attention, sometimes it's a treat, and sometimes it's a toy, or maybe it's just that the door to go out opened. When your dog is doing something you don't like, stop and think about what his/her reward truly is. And then think of something they could do that you like instead of the behavior you didn't like. They will soon figure the new behavior out! Dogs do what works. We just teach them to do the behaviors WE want instead of the ones they make up themselves. Behaviors that are rewarded will happen more frequently, and behaviors that aren't rewarded will decrease. An example of this is young children in a grocery store asking for candy. If they ask and their parent says no, many times they will try another behavior, that of whining or crying. Many parents will succumb to this behavior, because they may be embarrassed or just don't want folks to think they are a mean parent. The problem comes into play when the child realizes that screaming and crying work. After all , he got the candy, right? In the future he will repeat that behavior. The parent who calmly ignores the child's behavior from the beginning will end up with a child who may ask politely, (and receive candy), but who will most likely not do the screaming thing. Which leads us to another dog training tip....? Reward what you like and ignore what you don't. Remember, what is not reinforced is less likely to be repeated. BUT, be aware of a thing called an "extinction burst." This many times is where a dog will escalate a behavior that has worked before, even though it might not be being rewarded now. It always worked before, right? We do this when faced with a soda machine that doesn't work when we put our coins in. We may push the button multiple times or even try other buttons before we give up and walk away. It's scary how we do that, huh? OK, the first lesson is coming up just below. Please comment and discuss these lessons. It will make them a better resource for our archives. Do remember that this is the way I teach, and is not necessarily exactly the same as anyone else's clicker classes. If you poll a hundred dog trainers you will get thousands of variations, and variations within variations! Also, please be aware that I am primarily discussing dogs, but the methods are not much different for other species. I have worked some with horses, but am by no means expert at that! OK, on to the first lesson-- LESSON ONE: The ABC's First we will do a quick association of the clicker and treats. Next we will teach the dog not to mug you for the food. Then we will start Touch cue! A. Association of the Click with Rewards With the dog in a low distraction place, (the bathroom is good!), and the 20 REALLY YUMMY treats, click the clicker one time and rapidly feed your dog the treat. Repeat for all 20 repetitions. Quit. Go to another place in the house a little later. Repeat the click/treat sequence 20 times. Go to another place, and repeat. What you are looking for is a dog that understands that the click means a reward is coming. Do have your dog on leash to control the surroundings, so that you don't inadvertently reward bad behavior. After 3 sets, you should have a dog that is actively listening for a click. At this point, usually the dog will start mugging your hand for the treats. Obviously this is a behavior that we would consider unacceptable, right? So, we will teach him that mugging your hands or pockets will never get him the treat, but that looking away or focusing on you will likely earn one. B. Teaching the Dog How To Earn Treats First, have a handful of luscious treats in one hand and the clicker in the other. Show him the treats, but hold them in a closed fist so he can't take them. He will start being a pest, trying to get them. Wait him out. The moment he stops, or if you can see him, looks away, click and treat. (I will use the abbreviation "c/t".) Another idea is to carry food with you all the time in a pouch, but don't give it to him, so that he never knows when he is going to get the food you are carrying. I find it easier just to teach him that treats come through me and are only available when he doesn't try for them. This is handy, because I can set a bowl down next to me and he won't touch it. With dogs that serve as guides and service dogs, it is also a way to teach and reinforce food refusal, which we will go over in a later lesson. C. Teaching the "Touch" cue Now that we have shown our dog what won't work to get the treats, let's show him what will--Touch cue! Now that your dog understands that a click means he earned a treat, we can teach a touch cue. The basic touch is where your dog touches his nose to your hand. It serves many purposes. It focuses your dog on you and can be a foundation for many other useful behaviors, as well as a host of tricks! Start with your clicker in one hand and the treats in the other. I hold a treat folded in the 2 small fingers with the first and middle finger together, kind of like when you make a pretend gun, only with 2 fingers instead of one. When he touches the hand that is holding the treats, I click with the other hand and let him have the treat. I will do it this way only about 5 times total, then have the treat in the clicker hand or in a easily reached pocket, and c/t when he touches your empty hand. Make it easy at first for him by having your hand closer to him. As he starts to understand, start moving your hand around. Practice this with lots of variations this week--with your hand down, up, to the side, even high enough that he has to jump slightly, and low enough that he has to crouch. Practice with variations of your position--sitting, standing, lying down, crouching--any cool variation you can think of. Then practice in many places-at home, in the yard, in public, in the car, etc. (TIP: those nail pouch apron things from home depot are great when I have no built-in pockets.) OK everyone, good luck and let me know how you are doing. And PLEASE ask questions and make suggestions to improve or adapt this exercise! Sandy Foushee Infinite Pawsabilities LESSON TWO: Adding the Finished Cue Have you ever thought about how much time we put into deciding what we want to teach our dogs to do? Usually we don't plan much at all! This can lead to confusion down the road when our dogs show us that we actually taught them something slightly different than what we really intended! Let's use our "touch" cue as an example. First we need to decide exactly what we want our dogs to do. Do we want them to touch the palm, the fingers, or a particular finger? Do we want them to do a big, mushy bump or a feather-soft, whisker touch? Do we want them to touch the front or back of our hand? Do they need to be in front of us, or beside us, or behind us? Will we be standing, sitting, lying down, or standing on our heads? How long should the touch last? Will he need to do it right next to you, or far away, or both? Will it be in light or dark, on a staircase, in an elevator? Will there be dogs or other distractions around? With clicker training you could even teach all of these variations! You could even teach him to touch different parts of your body! I have a dog that was taught to touch my chin in response to the cue, "Who loves you, Hope?" Useless, but fun! To your dog, each of these is a different "picture", and only when we understand that, can we break the training down to get from where we are to where we want to be. By recognizing and setting up training for a variety of circumstances, we help the dog to generalize exactly what he is being rewarded for. Now for adding the cue! Drum roll, please! But wait! There's more! How will it be cued--by voice, by hand signal, by an environmental cue, or even by an eye blink?! Folks often laugh, but how many times have you heard, "but he does it perfectly at home!"? Further questioning reveals that the trick is often done in the kitchen only!--a perfect example of an environmental cue! All of these are factors in our dog's ability to learn and generalize a behavior. So, when you are willing to bet 50 dollars that the behavior is exactly what you want--and don't forget that cushy dog bed he wants when you lose!--then we add the cue. I usually add the cue by doing a dozen repetitions while saying the new cue AS the dog does the behavior. Then I start using the cue BEFORE the behavior. Within a few repetitions the dog will start associating the behavior with the word and you are well on the way! Start practicing touch in all the different places that you can think of! And for those anxiously awaiting the food snatching lesson, I will write it tomorrow night, since it is 11:00 p.m. now and I have to be up in about 5 hours for a full 9 hour day of work--with 5 hour eyeballs! Grin! Or maybe growl! Sandy Foushee Infinite Pawsabilities APDT # 63899 Centennial, CO 303-794-4924 LESSON THREE: Preventing Scavenging Behavior Here is the long awaited scavenge-proofing lesson! We have been working with the two behaviors of touching a target hand and "no mugging", right? You have been practicing, haven't you?! OK, first, what is it we want the dogs to do? I will assume the answer is to ignore dropped food or not pick up "found" food. So let's set this up where we can help the dog to realize that it is way more profitable to ignore the food and pay attention to you. You need: One dog on leash Clicker Really awesome treats or other reward Some really non interesting boring food item--if your dog thinks everything is steak, try plain lettuce to first teach this Shoes on feet First, have the dog on leash so you can keep track of him during the sessions. Have your food or other rewards available and easily accessible. By now you may be able to have the bowl of treats in your lap without your dog mugging you. If not, repeat the no mugging sessions with your hand over the bowl to prevent thieving, or put the bowl on the counter. What we will do is teach the dog that you ALWAYS have better things than the floor, and that ignoring the boring things will earn wonderful stuff! Start by sitting in a chair and placing the boring food item on the floor, right by your foot. If the dog tries to get the food on the floor, slide your foot on top of it. Do not say anything. Make sure he cannot get it. As soon as he stops trying to get it, click and reward with the awesome treats. Repeat as many times as necessary until the dog no longer tries to go for the food on the floor. Soon he will realize that he will not get the boring treat under your foot, and that only from your hand do the good treats come. Essentially, this is a variation of the mugging game. Once he is reliably ignoring the food on the floor when it is under your foot, try uncovering it a bit. But be ready to cover it up again if he lunges for it. Work up to having the food lying next to your foot and having him ignore it. Once he is ignoring the really boring food, start adding various value treats, but nothing as awesome as the treats you have! Slowly work up to "the good stuff". This can take a while, sometimes, and sometimes they understand it overnight! Once they are ignoring the food beside your foot, try dropping it from a few inches, being ready to cover it with your foot, and slowly work up to a full drop from sitting height. I had an idea that might help control where the treat drops--What about using a plastic plate or pie pan with edges and using another plate attached to a broom handle or stick? The edges of the plate will keep the treat from rolling, and the cover would be big enough that you wouldn't need to be very accurate to cover the boring treat. Be sure to click and reward ANY time the dog makes the right choice by looking to you for the food. A bell on his collar may help to tell where his head is too. A Gentle Leader also would help in determining if he was putting his head down to grab food. Once you can drop food and have him look to you for a better treat, try changing the circumstances. Drop food while standing up. Generalize it to lots of locations. Have someone else drop the food. Eventually you could enlist someone to help by dropping food for you while you continue walking past. Or set up piles of food in known locations, and reward when he walks past them. The variations are endless! Any ideas to make this lesson easier? Sandy Foushee Infinite Pawsabilities Training and Service Dogs "A Pawsitive Canine Experience" LESSON FOUR: Targeting with Different Body Parts I hope your dogs are targeting your hands great! I thought I might begin this lesson by teaching our dogs to target our hands with different parts of their bodies, for example, to lay a chin in our hands so that we could check teeth, or to put the top of their head to our palms, to place paws into our hands as the prelim for nail trimming and so we can get snowballs or stickers out if they get caught in between their paw pads, and to teach them different body parts so we could teach tricks like spin. So far we have the dogs touching our hands to the cue of "touch". What we want to do now is again have yummy rewards available in a bowl nearby--here is where "no mugging" starts to pay off! Do a few of the "touch" cue. C/t when they have it right. Then we want to have the clicker in one hand, and reach a cupped hand for the dog's chin. For the first couple of times all you want is just to be able to touch his CHIN with a cupped hand. Click and reward. After the first few, ask for a count of one before the c/t. Gradually start adding time until he will hold his chin in your hand for several seconds. Work on this until he will hold it still for several moments. Good Dog, Great Trainer! Repeat the same steps with each cheek, each shoulder, each paw--You can even name each foot as an individual cue, which helps when they get tangled in the leash!--each hip, the butt, and the tail. Once they start learning each one, they will start to actively press the body part you ask for into your hands. Your vet will love you for this! After he is fluent with these, it would be a great idea to have him learn to do it for strangers. It is also a really awesome trick, and proves to folks just how smart our dogs really are! Sandy Foushee Infinite Pawsabilities Training and Service Dogs "A Pawsitive Canine Experience" LESSON FIVE: Teaching the Right Amount of Pull in Harness or Pressure on the Leash "A friend here in Italy asked me how she can get her guide dog to slow down, and not pull too much when in harness/on leash." Let's look at it from the dog's point of view. Dogs do what works. (Are you tired of hearing me say that?) So for her dog, "getting there" is the reward. Or she may just LIKE pulling. What we need is pulling ON OUR TERMS. What I would do is set it up in a safe place. Then, EVERY time she starts to pull hard you would STOP. Remember the saying, "Practice makes perfect?" Well, it applies to dogs too! If she is practicing pulling too hard, she is perfecting pulling too hard. Make sense? Another important thing is to let her know when she is doing it exactly right, too. Click and treat her when she does it very well, nice and smooth. This is also a point where I personally feel that verbal praise can help immensely, especially in a place where she is doing it well, but you cannot stop to let her have a treat. You can verbally praise the nice pull across the street, and then after you are on the curb again, you could c/t and have a mini puppy party for the nice job! I am working on this with Alex right now. She starts out pulling too hard, but is learning that if she pulls nice and steadily, and does the curbs well, she might, just might, get a puppy party! She has improved a lot! I also worked on no pulling on leash in the same way. Because I have more vision in my left eye than in my right, I chose to train her to work on my right, to "protect" that side better. So I also had to teach this cue on both sides. I highly recommend that, too. I use a different cue for loose-leash walking than I do for guiding. When I am heeling her, I expect a totally loose leash. When I have her leash guiding, I want her to pull. Once she knows each of the cues separately, I will start alternating them. It seems to help them differentiate between cues. And it helps them pay more attention to the cues themselves. Comments, ideas? Sandy Foushee Infinite Pawsabilities Training and Service Dogs "A Pawsitive Canine Experience" LESSON SIX: Targeting Other Items Several folks have asked about targeting other items. What I usually do is set up a training session at home first, using a piece of tape stuck on my palm. Do a regular targeting session with the tape on your target hand for about 10 touches. Then put the tape on a really nearby surface and encourage the dog to touch it. If she does, c/t. Slowly start moving the tape around. (Make sure to teach this separate from retrieving. I didn't, and Alex thought she should retrieve the tape! It was a pain!) Once they are reliably touching the tape on nearby objects, you can take it to other places, and start fading the size of the tape, until you are just having to point in the general direction of an object, and the dog will target it. You can also start naming the items to touch, "Touch, (name of item)!" So, for example, "Touch, button!" would eventually fade to a simple "Button!" cue. Make sense? Sandy Foushee Infinite Pawsabilities Training and Service Dogs "We are now a team. Together everyone achieves more." "A Pawsitive Canine Experience" LESSON SEVEN: Indicating or Finding Named Items Your dog will need to know targeting and targeting other items to do this lesson. First, do a quick review of both targeting and tape targeting. Stick the tape to a new object such as a can of food. Hold it in your hand and do some touches. Then start using the name of the item. Say, "Can, touch!" Then fade the "touch" part of the cue, so that you are only saying, "Can!" Once they are reliably touching the can, move it around to different positions around you, but always in your hand. Then set it on the floor with your hand on it, then all around you on the floor. Then remove your hand and repeat the various positions. Then try different positions on the floor, and other surfaces, like couches or chairs. Then softly drop it from just a few inches high, varying the surfaces that it lands on. Then roll it close to you on the floor. Then increase the distance from you that it is. This is an exercise where I think a head halter might help you to determine where the dogs head is. Also, a couple of jingle bells on a rubber band would help with identifying if he touched the object, and where it rolled to, if we tried to advance too quickly! (But we NEVER do that, do we?) Then set a can in the middle of the floor, or have someone else do it. Then walk in with your dog, and cue, "Can!" Reward him mightily if he goes to it and touches it. Good dog! Good Trainer! Once you have a reliable "Can!", attach a name to a different object in the same way. Then start working on having them indicate the article you ask for, just by not clicking for the "wrong" object, and by praising and c/t-ing for the one you asked for. This can take several weeks to go through. Some dogs will have trouble with this. To help the dog, make the objects really different. Lots of objects can be named this way, just by using targeting and c/t--buttons, stairs, elevators, doors, car door handles--and this behavior is the basis for discriminatory retrieves, too. Let the list know how it is going! Anyone with ideas, thoughts and most especially, questions to clarify? Sandy Foushee Infinite Pawsabilities Training and Service Dogs "We are now a team. Together everyone achieves more." "A Pawsitive Canine Experience" LESSON EIGHT: Accepting and Helping Put On Equipment Many folks have told me that their dogs run or hide when they get out a harness or a head halter or a collar or a cape. Some even point to this as evidence that their dogs no longer want to work and as a reason for retiring them from service. For a dog that doesn't like to get dressed for work, I would investigate several things before throwing in the towel. First, is the gear uncomfortable? Check all padding, leather or nylon edges, and make certain that the gear is in good shape. Run your hands over the INSIDE of the gear, while holding it in dog position. Make sure there are no rough spots or places where buckles might pinch. Make any needed repairs or consider replacement. Next check out another part of the team, your dog. A trip to your vet can make certain that there isn't a physical reason that the harness or collar or head halter might cause pain. A simple tooth infection could make a head halter unbearably uncomfortable, and bad hips, arthritis, and many other conditions, including skin problems, might make wearing or using a harness or cape painful or uncomfortable. If your dog is all clear on that, then go on to the next section! Take a careful look to see how YOU are using your harness/cape/leash/collar. Are you using it in the manner it was designed for? Is your dog able to be pain free when you have a leash in your hand? We need to be careful to not put tension on a piece of equipment unless it has been designed for that. Can we, as handlers, keep a loose leash, even as we have tension on the harness? Do we tense up or pull on the collar when we get nervous or upset, or when we venture into stressful situations? Do we ourselves regard the gear as bad, ugly, or anything negative? How we feel about a given piece of equipment travels directly down that leash to our dogs. If our friends told us a dress we liked a lot was the most hideous rag, I doubt we would eagerly don it again! Especially if the friend made us wear it every time we went out! And finally, have we trained our dogs to LIKE their equipment? I will break down several items of gear, and show how we can teach our dogs to like putting them on! Buckle Collar--the basic gear for dogs. How many times have you seen a dog whose collar goes on and is never taken off because it is just too hard to put on or take off the dog? Well, here's a way to fix that! You need two collars for this. Have the dog on leash with collar number one on, just to keep him from bailing! Hold collar number two, unbuckle it, and show it to your dog. C/t any interest in the collar. Most dogs will sniff it. Do this a few times until your dog starts thinking, "Hey, if I touch that collar, I will get a c/t!" Once he does this 2 or 3 times, open the buckle and touch the strap part to the underside of his throat, c/t. Just touch at first! Once he is holding still for you to do that, start moving your hands up the sides as if you were putting it on. C/t for him holding still. At some point in here, many dogs will start leaning forward into the collar to make you hurry up with those c/t's! At this point start putting the collar on and off. C/t each time the buckle is done up. Once you are willing to bet 20 bucks that it is going to happen, then give it a cue. I use "Collar!" Harness or Cape--In Alex's case, She has a guide harness with a cape attached behind the back strap, so that it goes most of the length of her body. It slips on over her head. So these directions will also work with any slip collar that goes over the dog's head. I did first teach this with a too-big choke collar that I keep only for this exercise--poor thing would rust otherwise! you can use a piece of rope or even a loop made with a leash to teach it though. you want something with a loop that you can hold open. This is built on targeting, so your dog must have learned the basic touch cue from the lesson files. First, do a fast review of the touch lesson, having your hand palm downward and fingers spread. You can hold a treat in the last 2 fingers. Ask for "Touch", and give the treat with those two fingers. I use the other hand to click, or use a verbal marker if I must. Once she touches my hand 3 or 4 times, I loop the chain collar over the back side of my hand, and holding my fingers spread as before, I ask for touch without using the cue, and c/t when she does it. She is actually sticking her nose into my hand under the collar, usually bumping the part of the collar that hangs down. Then I repeat this, but slip the collar over her head as she pushes her nose forward. C/t, and take it off. Do this a few times until she is shoving her nose in and getting clicked and treated. When she was familiar with this, I then asked myself, "OK, I can put her collar on, BUT is that enough?" I realized that I really want her to help put it on. So I backed up again. I held the collar spread and asked her to touch it, again c/t-ing for that. Then I used some luring to get her to reach for a treat through the loop. Soon she said, "What? all I have to do is put my head through the hole! Sure, I can do that!" The procedure for a regular service dog cape was similar, but with the added part of a belly buckle. (See my comments below on training the buckles.) Her first harness was harder to put on her, because it had a Y-shaped breastplate. So I held it like the collar, and asked for touches to get her putting her head into it. Once she was good at that, I had to teach her to pick up a paw, so that I could put the strap that runs between her legs in place. I just touched her paw, and she would lift it and earn a c/t. Then there were two buckles to fasten on the side. Believe it or not those were the hardest thing to teach! I asked her to put her paws up on a chair, so that I could easily reach them--I don't bend that well! Getting her to do a paws up is a lesson for another time! Suffice it to say that she was c/t-ed for holding still, and I had some" waits" to capture the concept of staying still. You might not need to do this if you are the bend-able type of person. The head halter was taught the same way as the choke collar, with the addition of the "hold still for buckles" part. Now all I have to do is hold up each piece of gear and she will dive into it. Our biggest problem is that when she gets really excited, she sometimes hits the wrong hole--a problem that I am happy to have! Never scold enthusiasm! It will evaporate much quicker than you could ever build it! OK, it's questions and comments time! Bring 'em on! Sandy Foushee Infinite Pawsabilities Training and Service Dogs Teamed with Alexandra (Service/Guide) The above material is Copyright 2007 by Sandy Foushee. Any reprinting of this material must be accompanied by the copyright information.