Lesson 6: Adding cues (stimulus control)
When clicker training, we do not talk a whole lot. We are not telling the dog what to do all the time, or nagging him. When starting out we are focused on building good offered behaviors instead. The dog offers the behavior and we click and treat. The dog will then offer the behaviors more and more often, he will become better and better at them and soon we will have achieved fluency.
But shaping the behaviors is just the first step. When the dog performs the behavior the way we want him to, it is time to add the cue. With clicker training, we can teach really reliable cues.
There is a great advantage of training the behavior BEFORE we add the cue. If we try to train both the behavior and the cue at the same time, the dog will often make mistakes when we give the cue and this can lead to the cue becoming ”dilluted” before the behavior is properly trained. But if the dog already is really good at offering sitting down, running to you, lying down or targeting a mouse pad, adding the cue is simple. The dog already really wants to perform the behavior. We just have to tell him when to to it.
This is how you add a cue (we are using ”sit” as an example):
Clicker trained cues do not mean ”Do it, or else...” like commands in dog training have done traditionally. Clicker trained cues are like green traffic lights. The dog will simply treasure being cued, because that means that he now can earn a click for the behavior (which he already knows so well).
The dog will be happy to hear cues. And the dog will be happy to hear clicks. Spot the similarity? Clicker trained cues really are just like clicks – clicker trained cues actually reinforce behavior, just the way the click does. We are going to use this principle in the hands on training in tomorrow’s class. But first you need to do your homework!
Teach your dog the cue to sit (or perhaps lie down if you have already clicker trained that behavior). Follow the steps above and see how far you get.
And then just look forward to tomorrow. We are going to do something SERIOUSLY fun then (but you need to complete todays homework first!)
(Chief Instructor, Canis Clickertraining Academy)
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