Clicker Training – muzzle training step 3

If you’re just joining us, I am in the process of using clicker training to get my dog to happily wear a muzzle instead of forcing it on her. We are going on a trip to Venice next week and dogs are required to wear a muzzle on public transportation. You can catch yourself up by watching step one and step two.

I start today’s session by refreshing yesterday’s session. All I do is ask her to stick her nose into the muzzle. You can see there is a hitch in the start of our session. I “clicked” Mattie for jumping onto the ottoman, but I never put a treat down, so the first 10 seconds is her slightly confused of not having a treat and trying to look for one. Once we got past that, we moved onto her sticking her nose into her muzzle.

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Clicker Training – muzzle training, step two

So here we are, step 2 in training Mattie to wear a muzzle for our trip to Venice. If you’re joining us for the first time, you can catch up with step one. Short recap as to why I am training my sweet dog to wear a muzzle, is that it is required for her to wear a muzzle while on public transportation in Venice.

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Recommended Site KPCT

kpct-logoIt’s time I recommend a site that is filled with great reading and resources. Anyone who has heard of positive reinforcement training, should know who Karen Pryor is. Karen’s career started years ago working at Sea Life Park in Hawaii. She used positive reinforcement techniques with the marine mammals there. She was one of the first people to make the move to expand this concept to other species, including dogs.

One of the first books I was told to buy when I entered the Exotic Animal Training and Management Program was Karen Pryor’s Don’t Shoot The Dog. Seriously, it’s a great read regardless if you work with dogs or other animals and it’s even a great insight for working with people.

Karen has since expanded herself and created a site called I urge all of you with dogs (or any animal you wish to use positive reinforcement training with) to visit this site and give it a good look.

The blog section is full of useful information when working with your dog. I recommend adding the blog section to your “reader”.

The site also has a store where you could buy many different books that have to do with various stages of training. It also has a lot of training tools for you to buy.

There is even a video page.

There’s also something called the ClickerExpo. This is an expo dedicated to spreading the word of positive reinforcement training. Though these are heavily geared towards dogs, it doesn’t matter much. The concepts hold true for all species of animals. I’ve been to 4 ClickerExpos and I am not a dog trainer. They were still informative and inspiring. I have noticed that the ClickerExpo (based in the US) has crossed the pond and is now in the UK. Sadly, the Expo is fully booked! I’m on the waiting list, in the hopes someone cancels their booking.

I really hope that by sharing this site, I have shared some useful information to other people. Happy reading!

© Semi Charmed Life

V is for Variable ratio schedules

VBelieve it or not, your animal can get bored by being reinforced all the time and by the same reinforcements. I’m not saying this is the case for all animals. I’m just saying this can happen. In some cases a variable ratio schedule should be used. What exactly is a variable ratio schedule? Basically, not every behavior gets reinforced every time. Or, if it does, you vary how you reinforce it. This actually strengthens the behavior more, than simply feeding the animal every time it does something.

Gambling or playing the lotto are perfect examples of human based variable ratio schedules. Even though when gambling, you don’t get rewarded in each play, people still play. There’s that potential of a big win that keeps people playing. The pay outs differ as well. Sometimes you win BIG and sometimes you win small. If you won at every game you ever play, you’d get bored. It’s no longer a game and it’s no longer fun. I’ve run into a good handful of intelligent people who love playing “Words with Friends”, but often don’t because they can’t find people challenging enough to play against them.

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T is for Target

TA target is any object that an animal must touch with any part of its body. Often, target training can help in shaping many behaviors. You may remember my post on husbandry? In it I had Lucas trained to touch and keep his nose on a target (a tennis ball on the end of a stick) in order for me to be able to clean his wounded ear. Or perhaps my post on Incompatible Behaviors? Where I had Lucas touch his nose to a target (a wooden heart on a stall wall) so that I could safely walk into his stall with food.

Training Lucas to go between my legs using a target

Training Lucas to go between my legs using a target

A target can not only help in daily life with an animal, but it can also help in shaping new behaviors. As an example, a target like a ball at the end of a stick can help train an animal to turn in a circle. They learn to touch the ball with their nose and you slowly shape that into following the ball around. Eventually, you can phase out the target altogether, because well, the animal eventually catches on and doesn’t need the aid of the target.

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S is for Secondary Reinforcement

SS was actually a really hard one to post about. There are SO many terms starting with the letter S! I suppose after this challenge is done, I could come back and revisit the S category.

For today, I shall talk about secondary reinforcement. We’ve already discussed what a primary reinforcer is. Unlike a primary reinforcer, an animal sometimes has to learn that a secondary reinforcer is just as reinforcing. A secondary reinforcer is anything that is not a food item.

I’ll use an example with people who work with dolphins for a living. If you’ve ever been to a dolphin show, you may have seen many of these secondary reinforcers being used.

  • petting or scratching the dolphin’s skin
  • rubbing the dolphin’s tongue
  • spraying a hose into its mouth or on its body
  • feeding it ice cubes
  • offering it the chance to do a very simple behavior in order to get additional rewards

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R is for Redirected Activity

R“A redirected activity is an activity, recognizable from its form as being usually directed toward a particular stimulus, but on this occasion directed toward another stimulus. The classic human illustration is the aggressive man slamming his fist into the table instead of into an opponent.”

Unfortunately, in the animal world, redirected activity can result into aggression towards another animal. To be fair, this also occurs in children. One individual gets upset for not getting their way, and takes it out on the nearest individual. Redirected activity can be a positive thing as well. I’ll use my dog as an example.

Like most dogs in this world, Mattie is thrilled whenever I come home from leaving the house. Whether I’ve been gone for 20 min or several hours, she’s just as thrilled when I walk through the front door. Of course, this excitement can translate into her jumping on her hind legs and against me. She can paw at me with her feet. Though I certainly appreciate her excitement, I don’t necessarily wanting her to jump on me, especially if I happen to be coming home in a dress and pantyhose. So I’ve gotten into the habit of not reinforcing her for this behavior and pretty much ignoring her until I’m ready to receive this excitement of hers.

I’ve made it a point to keep a few of her toys downstairs, not far from the front door. So now, Mattie redirects her activity. Instead of being excited on me, she runs for her toys and starts playing with them. She gets all excited and squeaks her toys and rolls around with them on the large rug. It gives me a chance to verbally greet her and remove my shoes and coat, hang up my keys and put my purse away. Then when I’m finished, I can either play with her downstairs or encourage her to come upstairs with me. This may sound a lot like incompatible behaviors, except redirected activity kind of happens on its own. You don’t necessarily need to “train” it. I didn’t have to train Mattie to start playing with her toys instead of giving me attention, I just presented her with the opportunity and she took it. Playing with her toys when I get home, is more reinforcing than jumping on me.

© Semi Charmed Life

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge

P is for Primary Reinforcement

PI’ve talked far too much about positive reinforcement training, that I felt I didn’t need to make a post dedicated just to that (since all my posts pretty much are). Instead, I’ll talk about a primary reinforcer. The reinforcer is the reward during a training session.

“A primary reinforcement is anything the organism finds inherently rewarding – usually stimuli that satisfy biological drives such as hunger or thirst.”

A primary reinforcer is usually food. Animals inherently respond to food treats. It’s as simple as that. Just find something that the animal really enjoys eating as a treat. Some people who work with certain animals, like birds of prey for example, save their daily diet for training sessions. If your animal really enjoys their everyday meal, you can use that as training treats instead of additional food items. Some dogs really like their daily kibble. So instead of placing a dish down on the ground twice a day, you can use that daily kibble in training sessions. My dog doesn’t love her food that way, so with her, I use dried chicken cubes as treats. My dog LOVES chicken. A training treat should not be too big. It should be something the animal can eat in just a few seconds and be ready to move onto the next training cue. Unless you are “jackpotting” the animal, keep the treats small and quick to eat. You also don’t want them to add too much to your animal’s daily intake and cause them to gain too much weight.

© Semi Charmed Life

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge

O is for Operant Conditioning

OWhat is Operant Conditioning? Well, it’s pretty much everything I’ve been talking about so far in this A to Z Challenge. Positive Reinforcement training is the method in which I elicit Operant Conditioning. The fundamental principal of operant conditioning is that behavior is determined by its consequences. They key here, is that the response is a choice made by the animal. Asking your dog to sit and it does, is an example of operant conditioning. The dog chooses to sit when asked. Receiving praise and treats for sitting, influences your dog’s reaction to sit. Not receiving praise and treats for not sitting, will also influence your dog to choose to sit. Operant conditioning may be differentiated from classical conditioning in that responses in operant conditioning appear to be emitted rather than elicited by a specific stimulus, and they produce some effect that would otherwise not occur.

Classical conditioning is more of a reaction that happens to the animal that can’t be controlled. Pavlov’s dog is an example of classical conditioning. Salivating is a natural reflex. The thought of food naturally makes a dog salivate. It’s a response that can’t necessarily be helped. Classical conditioning results in a reflex, not a response. This type of of conditioning does not involve any voluntary choices made by the animal – just a reflex or reaction. The ringing of the bell was conditioned to become the eliciting stimulus and thus made the dog salivate whenever it heard it ring as it associated the bell with delivery of food.


© Semi Charmed Life

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge

N is for Neutral Stimulus or Cue

NA neutral stimulus or cue is anything that has absolutely no meaning to an animal until it has been conditioned to have meaning. A great example of this is the clicker used in clicker training, or a whistle used in positive reinforcement training. The clicker and whistle mean nothing to an animal when first introduced to it. They have no idea that the sound should be a positive thing. You have to first condition the animal to understand the clicker is a good thing. This is done by simply making the sound of the device and feeding the animal a treat, over and over again. When the animal begins to respond to the sound, then it has been conditioned to understand its meaning. Pavlov’s dog sound familiar to you now? The ringing of the bell means nothing to a dog, but after it being paired with delicious food, when the dog would hear the bell ring, it would start to salivate.

A neutral cue is like a command. Your dog has no idea what the word “sit” means, or if you use a hand gesture to mean “sit”, it has no idea what that means either when first presented. You have to teach your dog what that means, which is essentially what animal training is about. We spend an awful lot of time turning neutral stimuli and cues into things that have a lot of meaning to the animal. The results are extremely rewarding.

© Semi Charmed Life

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge