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Clicker Training thread

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
I have had quite a few pm's asking advice about clicker-training, and so I thought (and I hope you don't mind) that rather than reply individually to each one I would just start a thread on clicker-training that everyone who is interested can read.

Basically, it is a form of training based upon what is called `operant conditioning'. It is the same theory as that of Pavlov's Dog. Ie - a bell was rung every time the dog was fed, and eventually the dog only had to hear the bell and would start to salivate, expecting food.

The bell (or click, or whistle, or whatever you use) acts as a `bridge' between the command/action and the reward - something that inextricably links the two in the learning process. Eventually the bridge can be removed, leaving the link between the two a solid learned behaviour. Rewards can then be gradually withdrawn, leaving a learned behaviour that feels natural to the animal involved, and more importantly, it is something that places the animal under virtually no pressure at all, and something they generally highly enjoy.

Clicker-training can be used for a variety of purposes - to teach basic commands, to curb bad behaviour, and to teach tricks and agility. It works in ALL animals with an ability to hear. There have actually been successfully clicker-trained goldfish!!

I believe that clicker-training has many advantages over more `traditional' methods of training:
1. It is VERY fast.
2. It is thoroughly effective - behaviours learned in this way are retained very solidly in much less time.
3. It is highly enjoyable for the animal being trained.
4. It is VERY easy to learn for the trainer, and a very rewarding way to interact with your animal.

I have clicker-trained all of my cats and also Ruby, and would like to point out that this is not as a method of control. I intially trained the cats because as kittens they exhibited dangerous behaviours such as chewing on television cords or jumping on benches with knives and/or other hazardous objects on them. It is a method based on reward and encouragement, NOT domination and control.

If anyone would like to know more about it, or more specific training tips, please reply to this thread. Hopefully it will help lots of people!
post #2 of 20
Thank you for posting this!

How do you train when you have multiple cats?
post #3 of 20
Oo, I'm very interested. I've actually always wonderd how that works to begin with.
post #4 of 20
I am very interested in this. I am also curious about how it would work in a multi-cat household
post #5 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by CommonOddity042
I am very interested in this. I am also curious about how it would work in a multi-cat household
With dogs anyway, its important to do initial training individually. Plus it helps if you can use a different marker for each animal. There are clickers out there that are adjustable for multi-animal households, or you can use say a clicker for one, a whistle for another and a marker word such as "yes" for another. If you use a word, make sure it is something short and quick to say "good kitty" just takes too long to get out of your mouth to have any meaning. By using a different marker for each animal, you can ultimatly train in a group because each animal will recognize its own "mark" although I would still recommend that initial training be done on an individual basis.
amanda and kipling
post #6 of 20
I'm a little confused on how it works. When my baby jumps up on the kitchen counter, do I use the clicker then or do I do it when she jumps down and then give her a treat?
post #7 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by consumercity
I'm a little confused on how it works. When my baby jumps up on the kitchen counter, do I use the clicker then or do I do it when she jumps down and then give her a treat?
No, you do it when she jumps DOWN - that is what you want her to do. So you click when she offers the behaviour that you are after.

I.e.:

Kitty jumps on bench. When she jumps off bench, you click and treat. NO words, NO praise, NO encouragement to start with. She needs to associate the click ONLY with the treat and the action.
post #8 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by CommonOddity042
I am very interested in this. I am also curious about how it would work in a multi-cat household
Amanda is right - you need to train them individually at first, exactly the same as with dogs.

The initial thing you should always train your animal with when clicker training, is to pay attention to YOU. That comes before any behaviour shaping.

For example, when first training Ruby, I used clicker-training just when she made eye contact with me. You do it in a small space where there's not much else to distract them. Eventually they'll look in your eyes - when they do, you click and treat. Repeat this until they start looking at you deliberately - then it's time to introduce their name as the command, and then slowly remove the click and the treat. This teaches them to look at you every time you say their name, no matter what they're doing. Then, it becomes a precursor to another action - ie `Ruby? Sit.' or `Ruby? Down.' or `Ruby? Give.' It's very effective and an essential place to start.
post #9 of 20
The thing I think I'm really confused about is...what is a clicker?
post #10 of 20
Thread Starter 
A clicker is the instrument you use to make the sound that they need to hear to associate the action with the reward. It doesn't have to be a click, it can be a bell, a whistle - just anything distinct that your kitty wouldn't normally hear as part of its everyday life.
post #11 of 20
I'm still a little unclear as to how to use clicker training?...George has been acting up really badly and I need to start disciplining him before he gets much older. He is now 3 1/2 mos. old.
post #12 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by BlackRaven514
I'm still a little unclear as to how to use clicker training?...George has been acting up really badly and I need to start disciplining him before he gets much older. He is now 3 1/2 mos. old.
This site (click here) has lots of useful information about clicker training cats, and you can get Karen Pryor's bookClicker Training for Cats at the bookstore or pet store.

I haven't tried to clicker-train my cats, just my dogs, but I think the principal is the same for all animals.

The best way to stop an unwanted behavior is to replace it with a wanted behavior - it's a lot easier to teach a pet to do something, rather than not to do something. Instead of yelling at the cat for getting up on the counters, provide him with a cat tree, and teach him to climb in it instead. Instead of trying to get him to stop scratching the couch, give him some nice tall, sturdy scratching posts of his own in places where he'll use them, and teach him to scratch those - if you make the couch unappealing at the same time by putting sticky paws on the surfaces he tends to scratch, he'll go for the scratching posts & stop scratching the couch. I believe using clicker training can help speed up the process of helping your cat learn what behaviors you want from him.

Clicker training is useful for all animals, but would be especially helpful for cats, for whom traditional methods of discipline are not only utterly useless but may also damage your cat's trust in you.
post #13 of 20
so let me see if I have this right...

Sleeves/Nismo scratches the scratch post, I click and then give him a treat.
Sleeves/Nismo comes out of the Christmas tree (without being pulled out by me or Mark), I click and treat?
This kind of idea? You just carry the clicker round constantly and as soon as you spot the desired behaviour you click and treat? You don't encourage it? So I wouldnt tell Sleeves to get off the counter or put him down and then click and treat because he hasn't actually done this himself...

Can this kind of thing work on, say, keeping them away from the door? Whenever we open the door to put the rubbish outside or something, we pull it almost shut so that nobody gets out, but then when you try and get back in theres a little face sitting on the floor eager to get out, so you have to shout whoever is inside to come and pick up the offending cat. Luckily we are in a top floor flat so they cant get far but Sleeves is getting braver and going down more steps.
Could you use something like a pen for the clicker sound? I think a whistle may get annoying..

Lauren
post #14 of 20
Lauren:

Shaping the behavior to stay away from the door is a great idea. You could have one person go out the door (this is the trigger that usually brings the kitties running, right?). A second person would stay inside with the kitties & click & treat when the kitties stay an approved distance away from the door. A pen makes an excellent clicker, by the way. You may have to start off by clicking when they start to walk away from the door (even if it's only a tiny bit away or even just turning away from the door) & gradually work up to the ultimate goal of having them sit & wait while someone goes outside, does whatever & then returns. 5-10 minutes a day is all you need & I bet you can get some fantastic results. Make sure you select a high-value treat that you can give in tiny amounts (my Pete Pete gets tiny bits of corned beef from the deli...it's the only thing she'll "work" for). Have fun!

Amanda
post #15 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pombina
so let me see if I have this right...

Sleeves/Nismo scratches the scratch post, I click and then give him a treat.
Sleeves/Nismo comes out of the Christmas tree (without being pulled out by me or Mark), I click and treat?
This kind of idea? You just carry the clicker round constantly and as soon as you spot the desired behaviour you click and treat? You don't encourage it? So I wouldnt tell Sleeves to get off the counter or put him down and then click and treat because he hasn't actually done this himself...
Yes, that's right. With cats, it's very difficult to have an actual set-aside training session, so to begin with carrying a clicker around might be the only way! But I would suggest perhaps not using a clicker, but snapping your fingers. If you can do it so it makes a reasonably sharp sound, and one that is distinctive, it will take away the need to have a clicker on-hand at all times. Although the treat needs to be reasonably close to the click, it doesn't have to be straight away. Therefore carrying treats in your pocket and snapping your fingers will probably work better and faster than having to fumble around for your clicker first - you only get a split second to catch the behaviour.

Quote:
Can this kind of thing work on, say, keeping them away from the door? Whenever we open the door to put the rubbish outside or something, we pull it almost shut so that nobody gets out, but then when you try and get back in theres a little face sitting on the floor eager to get out, so you have to shout whoever is inside to come and pick up the offending cat. Luckily we are in a top floor flat so they cant get far but Sleeves is getting braver and going down more steps.
Could you use something like a pen for the clicker sound? I think a whistle may get annoying..
Yes, you could, and the post above mine is a great way of doing it. You can redirect behaviour with almost anything, and you can usually set up a situation in which the required behaviour is easier to catch. A pen would be fine, as well.
post #16 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bullymom
There are clickers out there that are adjustable for multi-animal households, or you can use say a clicker for one, a whistle for another and a marker word such as "yes" for another.
clickertraining.com sells a product called an `i-click'. It is about US$10 I think and it makes six different sounds with the one clicker. Extremely handy for multiple animal households. You first train your animals individually with their own individual `click' and then eventually they will really respond well to their own click without necessarily being isolated from one another.
post #17 of 20
Ok Thanks both of you, I'm going to start this immediately. Nismo is only 9 weeks tomorrow and isnt into the Whiskas treats that Sleeves likes but Mark always has chicken in the fridge which they both go insane for so I think ill take them to the kitchen and give them some of that.
I will need to make Mark read this thread so that he buys into it too as I will need his help so they always get rewarded for good behaviour, even when I'm not home. And also for the door thing. It's becoming quite an issue as Sleeves has a habit of running onto the landing, instead of down the stairs and there are only railings there, which he could easily slip through, I have this terrible vision of.... you know the rest bye bye kitty cat.
Ill keep you posted if this work for my babies!
post #18 of 20
i'm a bit confused.
so i don't have to train each behavior one by one?

let say I don't want Nana to jump on the Kitchen Counter, and I don't want her go into my closet.

Do I first teach her not jumping on the counter first, by clicking and rewarding her when she jumps DOWN. After she learn this, then i train her for not going into my closet, by clicking and rewarding her when she comes OUT from closet.

or i could do both training on the same day?
post #19 of 20
Thread Starter 
You could do both on the same day but you have to get them used to what the clicker means first. To start with, you need to just click randomly and follow it with a treat straight away. Then they start to associate the sound of the click with what's coming afterwards.

The trick is to get them to realise that as soon as they hear a `click' they'll get a treat, or some kind of positive reinforcement (a toy, a cuddle, play time - a treat works best at first, though). Once they make that connection they'll often start offering you behaviours just to make you click. That's when you start training them to do what your primary goal is. But they've got to know what the click is first, and what it means (ie - treat) otherwise it's pointless.

A really good place to start is with some random click and treats, and then by doing what's called target training. Get a chopstick, and make the end smell yummy (dip it in their food or whatever) and as soon as they touch their nose to the end of it, click and treat. They'll latch on after a few times and start deliberately touching the end of it with their nose, to MAKE you click. Once they have targeting under their belts (which doesn't take long) you can use the chopstick to get them off benches, out of cupboards etc.

Eventually, every time they see the chopstick they will touch it with their nose, they will hear a click and get a treat. You can then position the chopstick, for example, close to the ground when they get up on the bench. They will jump down to touch it with their nose, you will click and treat. Eventually you can eliminate the chopstick and click and treat for the down.

You can do the same thing with getting them out of the cupboard, away from the tv cords, off the lounge, whatever. Target training is a great start, and an easy way to encourage them to go where you want them to!

After this you add in the word that you want to use, ie `down' or `out' - that is the part of this training that is called respondent conditioning. Operant conditioning is the association of the click with the behaviour (and therefore the reward). Respondent conditioning is when they respond with the desired behaviour to the word that you use as the command, and then you can eliminate the click and treat by using say, verbal praise, a scritch on the ears, a cuddle etc...
post #20 of 20
Yes start out with easy behaviors first and work your way up. I did "follow the stick" for a while and then did "go to mat". Hope is a genius! She completely gets it after only a couple sessions. The other 2 kitties sort of get it.

I use baby food and no salt tuna for treats.

Eventually I want to have them sit on chairs while I make their food. The best thing about this is the bonding time you give them one on one.
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