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Can You Clicker-Train a Gun Dog?

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June 17, 2009

Can You Clicker-Train a Gun Dog?

By David DiBenedetto

Before I brought Pritch home a few months ago I hardly knew anything about clicker training. As I’ve mentioned, I had been out of the game for some years and many of my early mentors were devoted to old-school training methods. So yesterday morning I watched with interest when clicker-guru Karen Pryor was introduced on “Good Morning America” to give a demonstration and shill for her new book, Reaching the Animal Mind: Clicker Training and What It Teaches Us About All Animals.

I’ve done some research and understand the basics of the method, but for those of you who haven’t, here is what the publisher of the book has to say:

“Karen [Pryor] can teach anyone to train animals with a cheap, plastic, handheld clicker, rewarding wanted behaviors—click!—and ignoring the unwanted. No leash-jerking. No pushing. No smacking. Animals quickly learn that one behavior gets them a reinforcing click and a bit of food, and undesirable behaviors get them, well, nothing at all. Given the choice, animals quickly focus on what works and abandon what doesn’t.”

I will also say that Pryor seems to be a self-promotion savant, as she has cornered the market on anything clicker. Want to train your parrot? Get a clicker. Want to train your rat? (I’m not making this up.) Get a clicker. There’s even a book called Positive Gun Dogs (though not written by Pryor) about clicker training. And while I love the idea of force-free training, especially with a spaniel, I just can’t seem to wrap my head around this method in a hunting situation.

So, herewith the Hump Day Discussion, my question is this: Is there a serious place for clicker training with gun dogs? Does a clicker do what a whistle can’t? Don’t hold back gang. Good or bad, let’s hear your thoughts.

Comments (22)

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from muskiemaster wrote 4 years 44 weeks ago

whistle all the way your back in the thick woods and your gun dog's hot on the trail of a partridge and he takes off after it, you aren't going to click him back in that frenzy your better of just yelling some derogatory words and trying to chase him down. That's all I've got to say about that.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mr. Creosote wrote 4 years 44 weeks ago

Clickers? You've got to be shi#*ing me.

Maybe for the "Best in Show" crowd (a brilliant and truly hilarious movie, BTW)...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from johnmerwin wrote 4 years 44 weeks ago

parrots, rats.......hmmm. Is there a wife clicker?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jcarlin wrote 4 years 44 weeks ago

I've owned 5 dogs and they were all a bit different. I'm also a big fan of snacks and praise as training tools whenever appropriate. There are times, however when there needs to be some negative feedback though too. Two behaviors that positive feedback can't possibly fix is a dog that 1) snatches food around the house and 2) god bless them, wants to run things down at times when you don't want them to. A snack will distract them from anything that is simply less rewarding than a snack. My chicken pot pie however trumps a milkbone and a squirrel is a good bit of fun to chase. Sometimes you need to correct them. Next time your dog does one of these things, try ignoring them and not giving them praise. See if they notice.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from ingebrigtsen wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

Does it work on politicians too???????????????????

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from jmiles wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

I have a professionally trained boykin
that is 2 and shen she gets birdy she goes deaf so the ecollar is all that gets her attention. If it works on politician I want to order a truck load for our wonderful president, house and senate.

Maybe we can use some stimulus money to buy um!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Elmer Fudd wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

I can't help but believe that a combination of old discipline techniques have to be combined with the new 'clicker' method, especially with hunting dogs.

Some very reliable information I've gotten suggests that a dog trained this way tends to behave well around its trainer but is bad with all others.

It's for PETA types that don't like the idea of hitting etc.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from BIGGAMECOCK wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

I have an 18 month old Lab. We just started the hunt test game (she's qualified as a started dog right now) and we also hunt ducks and quail. From 10 weeks, I began obedience training with her and was introduced to clicker training. I thought it was silly, until I tried it and saw how quickly the dog responds and will respond consistently. No, you can not use the clicker to direct a command (and that isn't the point). The clicker allows you to consistently enforce the desired behavior w/ immediate recognition of a job-well-done. After the behavior is learned and consistently displayed on command, you then transition to the field. It also makes collar conditioning very easy because the dog understands immediate desired responses result in immediate rewards (stimulation going away). Also, once the behavior is consistent, you wean off of the treats. You start by rewarding for every click...then, when that's too easy, you start rewarding every 2 or 3 clicks. Once the command is learned to the point that you would bet your favorite shotgun on the dog obeying the command, you don't need the clicker anymore (but helps to keep around for polishing in the off-season).
If you still don't believe me, ask George Hickox. I went to a 4-day training session of his and he is also a believer and user of clicker conditioning. Our experience with him was made much easier by her already having the clicker training, so she breezed right through his clicker-focused training (the sit-board is another fantastic and effective training tool for teaching sit or woa, both with the clicker and then w/ the collar, which he uses extensively as well).
My dog is fully collar conditioned (never have to touch the remote) and trained to come and sit on the whistle, all because of the foundation clicker training establishes. I wish I could have used it for force-fetch.
Seriously try it - and try it correctly and consistently. I will never train another dog without it.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from Wags wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

My luck would be that the "clicker" would sound too close to the "rack" of a shell in a pump, or the closing of an O/U and my dog would be constantly wondering why she is being corrected!!

Give me a whistle, some sit, stay, and whoa training, and I bet I can do just about the same thing. However, having been around a number of dogs not worthy for the park, let alone the field, if it makes a dog obey for you, then by all means, hit the clicker.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from FloridaHunter1226 wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

I was starting to believe until training a rat with a clicker... that is a little far out. But I would have to say to stick with the wistle... a clicker cant have that kind of distance.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jost wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

as i said before get an oringinal copy of game dod by wolters it's the best sincerly jost

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from suenestnature wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

You ask the question "Can a gun dog be trained with a clicker?" and the answer is YES! It has been done, to reliability. You also ask "Can the clicker do what the whistle does?" and the answer to that is a little more difficult. The whistle, properly used tells the dog that a shock may come; the clicker properly used tells the dog that something he wants will come.

I train dogs for service work, tracking, schutzhund, obedience, agility, pets and on a recreational level to retrieve ducks; I have two chessies and we don't hunt but we do play with retrieving, and I am going to tell you that yes...you can train these behaviours with a clicker.

What you cannot do is to use the clicker to STOP the dog in mid charge as one poster asked, after a pheasant; you could use the clicker to teach the dog to stop on some other cue, just as reliably-but the click itself wouldn't; this is because the click indicates to the learner when the dog is right, and if you clicked the dog mid charge, the dog would think that charging was what you had in mind and would self reward by finishing the run and grabbing the bird. So no; you cannot use the clicker to successfully stop a dog in mid charge.

Clicker trainers, collar trainers, lure and reward trainers and dominance based trainers need to stop fighting. Read one another's literature. I am very well versed in learning theory so if I were to come out and watch anyone one of you, I have a framework and a language to use to describe what you do. It won't make me a better trainer to bash what you do; and it might help both of us to discuss what we each see. If we have a common language, we can share information and ideas very effectively. But if all we can do is belittle one another, we will never move our field of training forward. Some of the best lessons I have learned as a trainer have been standing behind the start line in a field full of gun dog trainers, thinking to myself "why did they do that?" and taking that information back to my training field with the agitator and my German Shepherd and saying "approach the problem like this" or getting out my clicker and explaining the desired behaviour more effectively.

Watch rat trainers; they were the ones who designed the theory behind the shock collars most of you use. Watch chicken trainers. They are the ones who developed the methods of reinforcements that allow us to do such incredible things with a clicker and a treat. Watch dolphin trainers-they are the ones that Karen Pryor comes from-and they know their theory cold.

It is very interesting too that as someone who understands learning theory, I can take an e-collar and train a dog. Or a clicker and train a dog. Or a treat and train the dog. Without belittling someone else's theories, ideas and methods. When you belittle an idea, you make yourself smaller-it is possible, that if you came out and watched me train my gun dog with a clicker, you just might learn something, and it might not even be clicker training.

Read widely. Don't confine yourself to Koehler, and Dahl and Wolters. Taste some Bailey and Burch (an excellent source for information on how learning works-but not recipes for training), some Suzanne Clothier (want a great relationship with your dog? this will make you think!), Ian Dunbar (puppies...everything puppies), and Jean Donaldson (who dogs are different from humans and how this affects how we train and learn).

And by the way, for he who asked, "can you clicker train your wife?" sure you can. You can also fix an engine with a hammer some of the time. The question there is "why would you want to".

Sue Alexander CPDT CDBC

+8 Good Comment? | | Report
from RaisingCanine wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

As one of the authors of Positive Gun Dogs, I have to say that yes, clicker training does work. I want to preface this post by saying that I do not personally hunt - I wrote the training and theory sections of the book. However, I am a professional trainer and can speak to training issues.

I read many of the comments to this article and first want to say that yes - there is a clicker for wives and politicians!

Bob Bailey (a world-famous animal trainer) was able to train wild dolphins to swim out 50 miles, perform a task, and come back - all with a clicker! If he can do that, I think we can train a domestic dog to retrieve a bird from a few hundred yards.

Most of the comments I read indicated either a lack of understanding of what a clicker actually is and/or a lack of thorough foundation training. For instance - in the article, the question is "can a clicker do what a whistle does?" Well, no - it can't. A whistle is a cue and a clicker is a conditioned reinforcer. You're comparing apples and oranges. The whistle (cue) comes before the behavior and tells the animal what behavior to perform; the clicker (reinforcer) comes after the behavior and tells the animal that the behavior it just performed is reinforceable.

A clicker is simply a tool - it's based on the work of B.F. Skinner - and is telling the animal that the behavior he just performed is reinforcable. A clicker facilitates training - it doesn't substitute for it. It allows trainers to communicate with very precise timing and also helps with distance training, when you are not able to reinforce a behavior immediately.

There have been studies that show that an animal will endure a great deal of punishment in order to have access to reinforcement - reinforcement is a very powerful tool that trainers would be wise to consider in their training plans. And, although praise is great, it's not a particularly powerful reinforcer; especially when compared to chasing birds!

In reality a clicker and an e-collar are two sides of the same coin - they are both designed to communicate to the animal. One does it through reinforcement and the other through punishment. I guess the question comes down to how you want to train. I do have Springers, and have worked a bit in the field. I was impressed that Spaniel trainers understand that you don't want to do anything to inhibit the natural desire the dogs have to be in the field and working.

A clicker can be a very useful and efficient tool. There's no doubt it works - many species of animals have been trained with these methods to very high levels of performance. It seems to me that the negative reaction to the idea of a clicker is often a knee-jerk reaction to what many trainers see as a "tree hugging" way of training. The reality is that this is a well-established and well-studied form of training that works exceptionally well, if the trainer understands how to do it.

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from Quackwacker wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

Sue & Raisingcane...........thank you very much for your response. You two are the kind of people that I would love to spend time with learning from you. I think the tree hugging comment was spot on. It seams if your not snatching or hitting or shocking then your not training.

I have two Boykin pups, one is 13 weeks and the other is 17 weeks and I have never seen puppys learn as fast as these two have with a clicker and positive reinforcement.

You can see the light come on!!!!!!!!!!

people are always ready to condemn things they dont understand.

Quack

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from Elmer Fudd wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

One situation I know of has a family dog trained by the wife in a clicker manner... everybody else in the family hates the dog because it only listens to this one person.

Now, you could say that problem could obtain in other types of ways of training, but to hate the dog? that seems unusual.

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from Quackwacker wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

Elmer,

Sounds like to me the dog was not finished. The trainer stopped when the dog learned the command but didn't continue. Once the dog learns the command the reinforcement should be weaned away until the dog is doing the command with out the treat or the clicker. That is the part that has eveyone here upset. You dont have to carry treats or clicker to the field when you have trained and "finished" the dog.

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from Quackwacker wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

Elmer,

Sounds like to me the dog was not finished. The trainer stopped when the dog learned the command but didn't continue. Once the dog learns the command the reinforcement should be weaned away until the dog is doing the command with out the treat or the clicker. That is the part that has eveyone here upset. You dont have to carry treats or clicker to the field when you have trained and "finished" the dog.

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from justducky wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

I have had the clicker in my tool bag for several years now and would not train a puppy without it. There is no faster or more fun way to teach a pup basic manners. I teach Sit, Here, Place, Look at me, and Kennel with clicker and goldfish crackers. I do not use treats for retrieves for 90% of the dogs as the retrieve is reward enough for hard charging gun dogs. I have clicker trained the retrieve on extremely soft tempered older dogs and was successful in teaching an old dog new tricks.
I also use Tri-tronics training collars using low-levels of stimulation. I may use both tools in the same session, level one continuous for Here with a long check cord and a click/treat when the pup comes in.
Each dog is different so you have to be flexible and find what works for that animal.
Best afield,
Pam

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from OTMBoykins wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

A clicker is a great way to teach a young dog behavior.
Here is a link to me teaching an 8 week old pup to sit to the whistle.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OrDNXnQFaNI

Now she sits to the whistle 60 yards away without hesitation and without a click or a treat.

The clicker is only used to teach a behavior and to reinforce it for a short time.

Good luck!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from JohnDoe wrote 4 years 41 weeks ago

I have a degree in behavioral psychology and I have trained rats- so I guess that makes me a rat trainer. It is relatively easy to train any subject in a controlled environment. Studies have shown it is possible to train even primitive single celled organisms such as amoebas using electric shock. Clicker training uses positive reinforcement where shock uses negative reinforcement. Amoebas cannot hear-but perhaps they could feel the vibration of the clicker sound if it were amplified; if so it would be possible to clicker train an amoeba.

My opinion about the ability to clicker train a hunting dog and whether it was as effective as a whistle is that these are two entirely different training tools but they can be used interchangeably. Clicker training is classical operant conditioning and involves pairing two stimuli so that they become so strongly associated that they are interchangeable. In the case of clicker training we click and reward with food simultaneously for some response by our dog. Eventually the dog comes to associate the clicker with food (positive reinforcement) and will eagerly perform for a click and the food can be eliminated. The whistle is traditionally a single stimuli that precedes a response, not a paired stimuli the way the clicker is. However, there is no rule that says you cannot whistle train as you would clicker train! Traditionally the whistle is a command. If you follow a whistle with a shock then it is negative cue. Or in lay terms a warning. You could use the clicker as a cue and follow by reinforcement in which case you would be using the clicker the same way you use a whistle.

Personally I use a whistle for recall only. I train my German Short haired Pointers in obedience, agility and as service dogs. I wish I could do all of this in a controlled environment. I did have to use a shock collar on one of the dogs for safety reasons when she was young --before we had a six foot fence and her prey instinct took over when she would see wildlife in the neighborhood. We regularly had deer, rabbits, coyote, fox passing through our property. I would definitely us the shock collar if I hunted with her, which I do not since her service dog training and my need for her are greater than the risk of having someone shoot her in the field or my losing her. I use clicker training. hand signals and voice commands as well as body language to include facial expressions to train. Negative reinforcement consists of firm tugs on her leash. The most powerful reinforcement is called variable reinforcement. That simply means sometimes the reward/punishment follows the behavior and sometimes it does not. It is the principle behind man's addiction to gambling. And also behind most wives ability to control their husbands. You never know when you are going to get it but you keep trying. :)

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from JohnDoe wrote 4 years 41 weeks ago

PS. I forgot to mention that I also use food treats for rewards.

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from jasonskelley wrote 4 years 39 weeks ago

Does the "Positive Gun Dogs" book teach you how to train a pointing dog or is it more for water dogs. I am very glad you wrote this book for gun dogs, but I want to be able to train a pointing dog if I bought the book.
If I had used Ian Dunbar's training with my pointing breed puppy, would Karen Pryor's clicker techniques be compatible.

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from suenestnature wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

You ask the question "Can a gun dog be trained with a clicker?" and the answer is YES! It has been done, to reliability. You also ask "Can the clicker do what the whistle does?" and the answer to that is a little more difficult. The whistle, properly used tells the dog that a shock may come; the clicker properly used tells the dog that something he wants will come.

I train dogs for service work, tracking, schutzhund, obedience, agility, pets and on a recreational level to retrieve ducks; I have two chessies and we don't hunt but we do play with retrieving, and I am going to tell you that yes...you can train these behaviours with a clicker.

What you cannot do is to use the clicker to STOP the dog in mid charge as one poster asked, after a pheasant; you could use the clicker to teach the dog to stop on some other cue, just as reliably-but the click itself wouldn't; this is because the click indicates to the learner when the dog is right, and if you clicked the dog mid charge, the dog would think that charging was what you had in mind and would self reward by finishing the run and grabbing the bird. So no; you cannot use the clicker to successfully stop a dog in mid charge.

Clicker trainers, collar trainers, lure and reward trainers and dominance based trainers need to stop fighting. Read one another's literature. I am very well versed in learning theory so if I were to come out and watch anyone one of you, I have a framework and a language to use to describe what you do. It won't make me a better trainer to bash what you do; and it might help both of us to discuss what we each see. If we have a common language, we can share information and ideas very effectively. But if all we can do is belittle one another, we will never move our field of training forward. Some of the best lessons I have learned as a trainer have been standing behind the start line in a field full of gun dog trainers, thinking to myself "why did they do that?" and taking that information back to my training field with the agitator and my German Shepherd and saying "approach the problem like this" or getting out my clicker and explaining the desired behaviour more effectively.

Watch rat trainers; they were the ones who designed the theory behind the shock collars most of you use. Watch chicken trainers. They are the ones who developed the methods of reinforcements that allow us to do such incredible things with a clicker and a treat. Watch dolphin trainers-they are the ones that Karen Pryor comes from-and they know their theory cold.

It is very interesting too that as someone who understands learning theory, I can take an e-collar and train a dog. Or a clicker and train a dog. Or a treat and train the dog. Without belittling someone else's theories, ideas and methods. When you belittle an idea, you make yourself smaller-it is possible, that if you came out and watched me train my gun dog with a clicker, you just might learn something, and it might not even be clicker training.

Read widely. Don't confine yourself to Koehler, and Dahl and Wolters. Taste some Bailey and Burch (an excellent source for information on how learning works-but not recipes for training), some Suzanne Clothier (want a great relationship with your dog? this will make you think!), Ian Dunbar (puppies...everything puppies), and Jean Donaldson (who dogs are different from humans and how this affects how we train and learn).

And by the way, for he who asked, "can you clicker train your wife?" sure you can. You can also fix an engine with a hammer some of the time. The question there is "why would you want to".

Sue Alexander CPDT CDBC

+8 Good Comment? | | Report
from RaisingCanine wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

As one of the authors of Positive Gun Dogs, I have to say that yes, clicker training does work. I want to preface this post by saying that I do not personally hunt - I wrote the training and theory sections of the book. However, I am a professional trainer and can speak to training issues.

I read many of the comments to this article and first want to say that yes - there is a clicker for wives and politicians!

Bob Bailey (a world-famous animal trainer) was able to train wild dolphins to swim out 50 miles, perform a task, and come back - all with a clicker! If he can do that, I think we can train a domestic dog to retrieve a bird from a few hundred yards.

Most of the comments I read indicated either a lack of understanding of what a clicker actually is and/or a lack of thorough foundation training. For instance - in the article, the question is "can a clicker do what a whistle does?" Well, no - it can't. A whistle is a cue and a clicker is a conditioned reinforcer. You're comparing apples and oranges. The whistle (cue) comes before the behavior and tells the animal what behavior to perform; the clicker (reinforcer) comes after the behavior and tells the animal that the behavior it just performed is reinforceable.

A clicker is simply a tool - it's based on the work of B.F. Skinner - and is telling the animal that the behavior he just performed is reinforcable. A clicker facilitates training - it doesn't substitute for it. It allows trainers to communicate with very precise timing and also helps with distance training, when you are not able to reinforce a behavior immediately.

There have been studies that show that an animal will endure a great deal of punishment in order to have access to reinforcement - reinforcement is a very powerful tool that trainers would be wise to consider in their training plans. And, although praise is great, it's not a particularly powerful reinforcer; especially when compared to chasing birds!

In reality a clicker and an e-collar are two sides of the same coin - they are both designed to communicate to the animal. One does it through reinforcement and the other through punishment. I guess the question comes down to how you want to train. I do have Springers, and have worked a bit in the field. I was impressed that Spaniel trainers understand that you don't want to do anything to inhibit the natural desire the dogs have to be in the field and working.

A clicker can be a very useful and efficient tool. There's no doubt it works - many species of animals have been trained with these methods to very high levels of performance. It seems to me that the negative reaction to the idea of a clicker is often a knee-jerk reaction to what many trainers see as a "tree hugging" way of training. The reality is that this is a well-established and well-studied form of training that works exceptionally well, if the trainer understands how to do it.

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from ingebrigtsen wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

Does it work on politicians too???????????????????

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from BIGGAMECOCK wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

I have an 18 month old Lab. We just started the hunt test game (she's qualified as a started dog right now) and we also hunt ducks and quail. From 10 weeks, I began obedience training with her and was introduced to clicker training. I thought it was silly, until I tried it and saw how quickly the dog responds and will respond consistently. No, you can not use the clicker to direct a command (and that isn't the point). The clicker allows you to consistently enforce the desired behavior w/ immediate recognition of a job-well-done. After the behavior is learned and consistently displayed on command, you then transition to the field. It also makes collar conditioning very easy because the dog understands immediate desired responses result in immediate rewards (stimulation going away). Also, once the behavior is consistent, you wean off of the treats. You start by rewarding for every click...then, when that's too easy, you start rewarding every 2 or 3 clicks. Once the command is learned to the point that you would bet your favorite shotgun on the dog obeying the command, you don't need the clicker anymore (but helps to keep around for polishing in the off-season).
If you still don't believe me, ask George Hickox. I went to a 4-day training session of his and he is also a believer and user of clicker conditioning. Our experience with him was made much easier by her already having the clicker training, so she breezed right through his clicker-focused training (the sit-board is another fantastic and effective training tool for teaching sit or woa, both with the clicker and then w/ the collar, which he uses extensively as well).
My dog is fully collar conditioned (never have to touch the remote) and trained to come and sit on the whistle, all because of the foundation clicker training establishes. I wish I could have used it for force-fetch.
Seriously try it - and try it correctly and consistently. I will never train another dog without it.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from Quackwacker wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

Sue & Raisingcane...........thank you very much for your response. You two are the kind of people that I would love to spend time with learning from you. I think the tree hugging comment was spot on. It seams if your not snatching or hitting or shocking then your not training.

I have two Boykin pups, one is 13 weeks and the other is 17 weeks and I have never seen puppys learn as fast as these two have with a clicker and positive reinforcement.

You can see the light come on!!!!!!!!!!

people are always ready to condemn things they dont understand.

Quack

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from JohnDoe wrote 4 years 41 weeks ago

I have a degree in behavioral psychology and I have trained rats- so I guess that makes me a rat trainer. It is relatively easy to train any subject in a controlled environment. Studies have shown it is possible to train even primitive single celled organisms such as amoebas using electric shock. Clicker training uses positive reinforcement where shock uses negative reinforcement. Amoebas cannot hear-but perhaps they could feel the vibration of the clicker sound if it were amplified; if so it would be possible to clicker train an amoeba.

My opinion about the ability to clicker train a hunting dog and whether it was as effective as a whistle is that these are two entirely different training tools but they can be used interchangeably. Clicker training is classical operant conditioning and involves pairing two stimuli so that they become so strongly associated that they are interchangeable. In the case of clicker training we click and reward with food simultaneously for some response by our dog. Eventually the dog comes to associate the clicker with food (positive reinforcement) and will eagerly perform for a click and the food can be eliminated. The whistle is traditionally a single stimuli that precedes a response, not a paired stimuli the way the clicker is. However, there is no rule that says you cannot whistle train as you would clicker train! Traditionally the whistle is a command. If you follow a whistle with a shock then it is negative cue. Or in lay terms a warning. You could use the clicker as a cue and follow by reinforcement in which case you would be using the clicker the same way you use a whistle.

Personally I use a whistle for recall only. I train my German Short haired Pointers in obedience, agility and as service dogs. I wish I could do all of this in a controlled environment. I did have to use a shock collar on one of the dogs for safety reasons when she was young --before we had a six foot fence and her prey instinct took over when she would see wildlife in the neighborhood. We regularly had deer, rabbits, coyote, fox passing through our property. I would definitely us the shock collar if I hunted with her, which I do not since her service dog training and my need for her are greater than the risk of having someone shoot her in the field or my losing her. I use clicker training. hand signals and voice commands as well as body language to include facial expressions to train. Negative reinforcement consists of firm tugs on her leash. The most powerful reinforcement is called variable reinforcement. That simply means sometimes the reward/punishment follows the behavior and sometimes it does not. It is the principle behind man's addiction to gambling. And also behind most wives ability to control their husbands. You never know when you are going to get it but you keep trying. :)

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from jcarlin wrote 4 years 44 weeks ago

I've owned 5 dogs and they were all a bit different. I'm also a big fan of snacks and praise as training tools whenever appropriate. There are times, however when there needs to be some negative feedback though too. Two behaviors that positive feedback can't possibly fix is a dog that 1) snatches food around the house and 2) god bless them, wants to run things down at times when you don't want them to. A snack will distract them from anything that is simply less rewarding than a snack. My chicken pot pie however trumps a milkbone and a squirrel is a good bit of fun to chase. Sometimes you need to correct them. Next time your dog does one of these things, try ignoring them and not giving them praise. See if they notice.

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from Wags wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

My luck would be that the "clicker" would sound too close to the "rack" of a shell in a pump, or the closing of an O/U and my dog would be constantly wondering why she is being corrected!!

Give me a whistle, some sit, stay, and whoa training, and I bet I can do just about the same thing. However, having been around a number of dogs not worthy for the park, let alone the field, if it makes a dog obey for you, then by all means, hit the clicker.

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from Elmer Fudd wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

One situation I know of has a family dog trained by the wife in a clicker manner... everybody else in the family hates the dog because it only listens to this one person.

Now, you could say that problem could obtain in other types of ways of training, but to hate the dog? that seems unusual.

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from Quackwacker wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

Elmer,

Sounds like to me the dog was not finished. The trainer stopped when the dog learned the command but didn't continue. Once the dog learns the command the reinforcement should be weaned away until the dog is doing the command with out the treat or the clicker. That is the part that has eveyone here upset. You dont have to carry treats or clicker to the field when you have trained and "finished" the dog.

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from justducky wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

I have had the clicker in my tool bag for several years now and would not train a puppy without it. There is no faster or more fun way to teach a pup basic manners. I teach Sit, Here, Place, Look at me, and Kennel with clicker and goldfish crackers. I do not use treats for retrieves for 90% of the dogs as the retrieve is reward enough for hard charging gun dogs. I have clicker trained the retrieve on extremely soft tempered older dogs and was successful in teaching an old dog new tricks.
I also use Tri-tronics training collars using low-levels of stimulation. I may use both tools in the same session, level one continuous for Here with a long check cord and a click/treat when the pup comes in.
Each dog is different so you have to be flexible and find what works for that animal.
Best afield,
Pam

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from muskiemaster wrote 4 years 44 weeks ago

whistle all the way your back in the thick woods and your gun dog's hot on the trail of a partridge and he takes off after it, you aren't going to click him back in that frenzy your better of just yelling some derogatory words and trying to chase him down. That's all I've got to say about that.

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from Mr. Creosote wrote 4 years 44 weeks ago

Clickers? You've got to be shi#*ing me.

Maybe for the "Best in Show" crowd (a brilliant and truly hilarious movie, BTW)...

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from johnmerwin wrote 4 years 44 weeks ago

parrots, rats.......hmmm. Is there a wife clicker?

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from jmiles wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

I have a professionally trained boykin
that is 2 and shen she gets birdy she goes deaf so the ecollar is all that gets her attention. If it works on politician I want to order a truck load for our wonderful president, house and senate.

Maybe we can use some stimulus money to buy um!

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from Elmer Fudd wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

I can't help but believe that a combination of old discipline techniques have to be combined with the new 'clicker' method, especially with hunting dogs.

Some very reliable information I've gotten suggests that a dog trained this way tends to behave well around its trainer but is bad with all others.

It's for PETA types that don't like the idea of hitting etc.

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from FloridaHunter1226 wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

I was starting to believe until training a rat with a clicker... that is a little far out. But I would have to say to stick with the wistle... a clicker cant have that kind of distance.

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from jost wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

as i said before get an oringinal copy of game dod by wolters it's the best sincerly jost

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from Quackwacker wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

Elmer,

Sounds like to me the dog was not finished. The trainer stopped when the dog learned the command but didn't continue. Once the dog learns the command the reinforcement should be weaned away until the dog is doing the command with out the treat or the clicker. That is the part that has eveyone here upset. You dont have to carry treats or clicker to the field when you have trained and "finished" the dog.

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from OTMBoykins wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

A clicker is a great way to teach a young dog behavior.
Here is a link to me teaching an 8 week old pup to sit to the whistle.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OrDNXnQFaNI

Now she sits to the whistle 60 yards away without hesitation and without a click or a treat.

The clicker is only used to teach a behavior and to reinforce it for a short time.

Good luck!

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from JohnDoe wrote 4 years 41 weeks ago

PS. I forgot to mention that I also use food treats for rewards.

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from jasonskelley wrote 4 years 39 weeks ago

Does the "Positive Gun Dogs" book teach you how to train a pointing dog or is it more for water dogs. I am very glad you wrote this book for gun dogs, but I want to be able to train a pointing dog if I bought the book.
If I had used Ian Dunbar's training with my pointing breed puppy, would Karen Pryor's clicker techniques be compatible.

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