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Posts Tagged ‘operant conditioning’

Training That Clicks!

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

From: Natural Awakenings Lansing Mid-Michigan November, 2011 Edition

Dawn Pizzoferrato, owner of Arrow Dog Training, offers clicker training classes for dogs of all breeds and sizes in groups on Wednesday evenings at AnnaBelle’s Pet Station and privately through in-home training. Certified as a dog trainer through the Animal Behavior College, she says, “My focus has always been on pet dogs and creating a positive home environment with their human parents so that it will become their ‘forever’ home.”

Pizzoferrato views dog training as an ongoing process and stresses the importance of educating dog owners on effective training techniques, such as the clicker method. She explains, “Dogs are natural pleasers, and they will try to fulfill their owner’s requests. The clicker allows the owner to let the dog know what those requests are, and the food reward provides the pay-off which entices repeat behavior.”

As benefits of the clicker method, Pizzoferrato shares that as both a training tool and a communication device, the clicker works better than verbal cues due to its consistency in tone and volume. She cites the speed at which the method works as one major benefit, adding, “I feel the biggest advantage to the clicker training method is the bond it creates between owner and dog. Clicker training is a mutual learning experience. While the owner is trying to get behaviors from the dog, the dog is also trying to get the owner to click.” This lends itself to endless training possibilities.

Location: Group classes, 600 S. Capitol Ave., Lansing. To register or for more information, call 517-599-0995 or visit CoolCityDogs.com. For information about private training, call 517-449-9968, email DawnPizzo@yahoo.com.

Reprinted with permission. To learn more about Dawn, and sign up for her clicker training and K9 Nose Work® classes at AnnaBelle’s, please visit her webpage!

 

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What is “Shaping” and Why Should You Use This Training Technique With Your Dog?

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

By: Dawn Archer Pizzoferrato, ABCDT, Owner of Arrow Dog Training

So what is this thing called “shaping”? Some in the dog training world use the term “shaping” to describe any training that increases a response in small increments, even though they may get the response by luring, force, verbal instruction, environmental manipulation, or other external pressure. The correct term for these non-spontaneous training methods would be “successive approximation.” Many animal trainers use successive approximation, gradually raising the height of jumps, the distance of a race, and the heaviness of weights, all to improve performance. The terms “free shaping” and “cold shaping” are used to identify true shaping from “successive approximation” when the dog’s spontaneous behavior is the key factor in the development of the behavior.

True shaping simply means breaking down a behavior into small increments, and reinforcing the dog’s voluntary (not lured or pressured in any way) incremental step until you’ve reached the full behavior. Shaping allows you to create behavior from scratch without physical control or corrections, but rather by drawing on your animal’s natural ability to learn.

Some trainers, like me, believe that shaping is the ultimate approach to operant training (use of consequences to modify the occurrence and form of behavior). Others incorporate shaping as a valuable part of a multi-faceted training program. Wherever you find yourself of the subject, I’m sure you’ll find that shaping is a Zen-like experience – it takes lots of patience and close observation and it involves breaking down a behavior into small components rather than lumping (reinforcing large chunks of behavior). In contrast to lumping, with shaping, the breakdown of behavior or “splitting” means looking for the tiniest piece of movement, clicking and reinforcing that small movement, and building towards the final behavior. Splitting and reinforcing voluntary behavior is the foundation of shaping complex behaviors.

And why should you learn to “shape” and start using this technique with your dog?

1)    Free shaping is great for encouraging a dog who is shy, anxious or fearful to offer behaviors, because he can’t be wrong. This works particularly well with shelter or rescue dogs who find their lives anything but consistent. Anything he does that even remotely relates to the exercise gets clicked and treated. Once the dog is easily offering random behaviors, then you can, if you choose, switch to shaping a goal behavior.

2)    It’s fast!!  When you combine shaping with a clicker, you can develop complex behaviors within a few minutes.

3)    It’s fun!!  Dogs that are used to the doldrums of practicing basic obedience over and over will find this work exciting and enriching…as will their handlers.  Remember, when clicker training, it’s not only about you trying to get behaviors out of your dog, but your dog is also trying to get “clicks” out of you.  You’ll find this especially true when “shaping” behaviors with your dog.  Your dog will start working (and thinking) hard to discover how to make you click.

Beware, one small warning … once you start shaping, you may become addicted and obsessed (I’m sure your dog will!) and unable to turn back to traditional training work. So, join me for my Doggie Do Good Beginner Obedience clicker class and you’ll be ready soon for Doggie Do Good Clicker II: Beyond Basic Obedience!

Learn More About Dawn & How to Get Your Dog On Target!

Dawn is an Animal Behavior College Certified Dog Trainer, an experienced Nose Work Instructor, an AKC Canine Good Citizen evaluator, and the owner of Arrow Dog Training. Dawn is AnnaBelle’s resident clicker training specialist and she can help you Get Your Dog on Target! Dawn uses scientifically proven “clicker training” and “free shaping” to teach your dog all the basics plus other fun, useful behaviors. She uses operant conditioning and positive reinforcement, without correction, to help you and your dog build a bond of trust and respect.

In addition to presenting Doggie Do Good clicker classes, Dawn also offers Nose Work classes, TDI® (Therapy Dog International) classes and in-home private training. Dawn’s group classes are taught at AnnaBelle’s on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. Click here to see her complete class schedule!

Why Clicker Training?

Monday, August 24th, 2009

Author: Dawn Archer Pizzoferrato, ABCDT owns Arrow Dog Training and offers dog training classes at AnnaBelle’s Pet Station.

Usually the first question I am asked when tell people I offer clicker training is, “what is clicker training?” The answer to that is simple…It’s a dog training method using a clicker to mark the desired behavior.  That usually satisfies most askers, but the question most people have next is, “Why?”

Now THAT is a great question. Why clicker training? As with any training technique, clicker training has its proponents and opponents. Many trainers just don’t see the benefits of an additional tool to deal with, some trainers prefer a non-treat based reward and don’t like the clicker/treat connection, and some just don’t like positive reinforcement training. Whatever the reason for opposing clicker training, there is only one answer to “why” I favor the clicker training method…It works.

Karen Pryor, the godmother of clicker training in the United States, in her article, The Neurophysiology of Clicker Training, which covers research on stimuli and the limbic system of the animal brain, writes:

“… another contributing factor to the extraordinary rapidity with which the clicker and clicked behavior can be acquired might be that the click is processed by the CNS (central nervous system) much faster than any word can be. Even in the most highly-trained animal or verbal person, the word must be recognized, and interpreted, before it can ‘work,’ and the effect of the word may be confounded by accompanying emotional signals, speaker identification clues, and other such built-in information.”

clicker2So, in other words, this means that the clicker sound needs no interpretation. Once the dog learns that a treat follows a click and learns that to get a click he needs to do a requested behavior, he’s got it! You, however, still need to get the dog to DO the behavior. But if the dog is clicker trained, once he does the desired behavior and gets the click, he knows what you want from him and he will repeat it as often as you want. Clicker training is fastest way I have found to teach a dog a new behavior. And the more you use the clicker on new behaviors, the better and faster the dog will learn them. It has a positive cascading effect.

The other main reason that I use clicker training is because it’s fun. Dogs love the “game” of it. They seem to be less tired from training and show a stronger willingness to learn. It works wonderfully for shy or fearful dogs, because it gives them confidence.

In my view, the only downfall to successfully clicker training a dog is teaching the handler correct clicker timing. It can be tricky. In your hands, you have the clicker, the leash, the treat, AND you’re luring the dog AND you have click at the precise moment that your dog does the desired behavior. WHEW! That can be hard.  But like any new skill, practice makes perfect…just ask your dog! The timing of your click is extremely important because if you click too early, your dog hasn’t completed the behavior; if you click too late, then he’s on to something else. I often recommend practicing clicker timing separately from training with your dog just for this reason.

So, if you want to make training and learning fun for your dog, if you want to teach new behaviors quickly with better retention, or you simply want to learn a new training technique yourself, clicker training is definitely for you. Come join us at Annabelle’s Pet Station. Class size is limited. Six week class is only $109. Sign up today!

Learn More About Dawn  and How to Get Your Dog On Target!

Dawn is an Animal Behavior College Certified Dog Trainer, an experienced Nose Work Instructor, an AKC Canine Good Citizen evaluator, and the owner of Arrow Dog Training.

Dawn is AnnaBelle’s resident clicker training specialist and she can help you Get Your Dog on Target! Dawn uses scientifically proven “clicker training” and “free shaping” to teach your dog all the basics plus other fun, useful behaviors. She uses operant conditioning and positive reinforcement, without correction, to help you and your dog build a bond of trust and respect.

In addition to presenting Doggie Do Good clicker classes, Dawn also offers Nose Work classes, TDI® (Therapy Dog International) classes and in-home private training. Dawn’s group classes are taught at AnnaBelle’s on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. Click here to see her complete class schedule!