a blog about Kilt and her kids plus Trouble our JRT mascot.

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Sequim, Washington, United States

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


I guess if you're into sheepdoggin' you are learning about pressure on, pressure off every day that you work your dog(s). I have very "clicker savvy" dogs. They know the clicker means "Yep, that's right...keep on doing it just like that." Now, wouldn't a "yes" or a "good dog" suffice just as well? Why use a clicker?

A German Scientist, Barbara Schoening (clicker trainer and neurophysiologist) relates that there is a relationship between clicker training and the limbic system. The limbic system is an area of our brain that controls emotion.

"We clicker trainers see similar patterns of very rapid learning, long retention, and emotional surges, albeit positive emotions rather than fear. It is hypothesized that the clicker is a conditioned "joy" stimulus that is acquired and recognized through those same primitive pathways, which would help explain why it is so different from, say, a human word, in its effect."

"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) 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...." Karen Pryor

I am finding a clicker useful when my dog is feeling pressure from the sheep. Maybe two sheep are confronting the dog and the dog has to walk face to face and back the sheep before the sheep will turn. This is a good exercise to use a clicker. That's exactly what I did while working Yoko this morning on a couple of (yearling) rams that wanted back to their group. Every step she took standing tall and eye to eye she got "clicked." She was busy concentrating, but I know that click got to her brain. It told her "Yes" you are doing exactly the right thing.

I also, used a clicker for a heel bite and a nose bite this morning in a pen. Yo is still a bit tentative about being confronted. I don't want to ADD to her pressure by verbally trying to put pressure on her by excitedly saying, "Get em...get in there, etc." She already has enough pressure with the sheep. I am very quietly encouraging her with a shh shh (very low key). I am trying to let her figure it out without my interference. Each step forward is clicked. You might ask, "Doesn't she look at you when you click? Don't you need to treat her when you click?" The answer is a big NO. This is a clicker savvy dog. If teaching a new behavior at home I would reward profusely. This time her reward is the sheep. When she is being pressured she is not about to take her eyes off of who is pressuring her. But, her brain is recognizing the click.

Just another great way to use a clicker in your training. :0)


Karen said...

I have never used the clicker in your situation with pressure, so tha was kind of interesting.
Luna is the first dog that I have done much with the clicker with. She loves it though. As soon as she realizes I've got it in my hand, she is dancing around. ooh ohh, do you want me to lie on this mat, do you want me to climb on that bucket, do you want me to knock this over with my paw......
So I have a clicker in the trailer, so if I get bored on our trip, I'll see what I can teach her:)

gvmama said...

I always tell people if they would get up during "commercial time" in the evenings they would have a well trained dog :0)
The clicker certainly creates a "thinking" dog.....fun.