Clicker Training Difficulties

Discussion in 'General Dog Training' started by whipple, Feb 4, 2012.

  1. whipple Well-Known Member

    So I have issues with both dogs about this. Lets start with Sierra. She is very used to getting a command for things, we never did use the clicker much in the beginning, and have only started now since we are doing agility. Anyhow, when I'm waiting for her to offer the behavior (showing interest in something) she'll sit there and stare at me. If she does by chance show interest I'll click and treat immediately. Then she will do the same sit and wait for a command. I don't know what to do so I kinda show interest in the object myself and I'll click and treat when she does. Then we're right back at square one waiting forever. Is it possible that some dogs just need more direction/luring/ect?

    And then there is Kitana. Kinda the same deal. She will usually get off to a better start though. She will show interest, get treated, then do it again and again. But no more then that. So if I treat tons of times then try to wait for her to offer more, she doesn't. In fact if she doesnt get a click and treat for offering what she originally got treated for, she will go lay down somewhere as if we are done. If I try to lure her, she shrinks away. I've had her about 6 months, and we havent done much with her due to my pregnancy (hormones or something, I can't stand the sound/smell of the dogs most of the time :( Anyhow, I have no clue what to do with her. So we move on to something she knows, which involves sit right now. Honestly all I'm trying for is getting her to touch a margarine lid instead of my hand (she wont go near the lid unless I point to it, then she tries to go for my hand, which I dont click for, just ignore)

    Help!

  2. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    So you're having issues with shaping?


    Some dogs take to shaping much faster than others.
    Several things you can try though. :)

    With my current client's Lab, he didn't really understand shaping with an inatimate object, so we actually started shaping with a super annoying squeaky toy that he had never played with before. I'd squeak it and toss it right beside him, he'd look at it, click and reward. Wait. Didn't get it yet, so squeak and toss, he'd look at it, click and reward. Still not quite sure, so I just stepped on it with it right beside him so it squeaked. He looked at it and sniffed a little, jackpot! Hmm, maybe I'm supposed to do something with this toy...sniff, reward. I DO have to do something with this toy...sniff more deliberately(nose actually touched the toy). Medium value reward and GOOD BOY, trying to sound somewhat exciting because this dog in particular needed his play drive to be built up a little bit. Once he was consistently trying to sniff it, then I stopped rewarding until he pushed on the toy with his nose---SQUEAK! Click and jackpot, and the squeak was rewarding too. There was the lightbulb moment. After a couple of squeaks with his nose, he decided to try to slam it with his paw--LOUDER squeak! I was actually going for shaping a retrieve, but regardless I wanted him to understand shaping---any interaction with a new object gets you a reward, but you have to keep trying various behaviors until I tell you which one I like best---i.e., which one gets you the most treats. We eventually shaped a retrieve, after he tried a ton of other behaviors first.

    So I guess the point there was try something NEW that is noisy, and DO give them some direction at first by squeaking it, tossing it, encouraging them to play with it, etc. Get them kind of riled up so they are interested in it. Then wait them out. And have little mini-jackpots when they offer new behaviors so they get the idea that offering various behaviors is the idea.

    You can also try putting a little dab of cream cheese or peanut butter or other spreadable things on the object. They are obviously going to sniff it and lick it, click and reward. Reapply(but try not to let them see you), they'll go at it again, click and reward. Add the "encouragement" just a few times, then wait and see what they do to the object.

    You can also try putting a treat underneath the object you want them to interact with so they sniff or paw at it to try to get the treat underneath. Again, only add the encouragement a few times and then wait and see what they do.

    They will need some form of encouragement in the beginning--whether that's you staring at the object, playfully waving it at them, stepping towards the object, tapping it, etc. You can even let them interact with it on accident--for instance you can take a rug or towel and heel over it--C&R when she first hits the rug. Or, have her in a stay with rug between you and her and coax her to you--of course NOT using your come command, just sounds or clapping or something so she comes to you and has to cross the rug. C&R the second she hits the rug. You could also sit down with a rug right in front of you--if she's used to working close to you, she may come to stand in front of you--which happens to be right on the rug. C&R the second she hits the rug. Then maybe stand up with rug right in front of you. Same idea. Then maybe stand beside the rug. Change your position slowly so she understands you have nothing to do with it; it's all about the rug. Then you can gradually start moving further and further away from the rug and she will eventually go to the rug even with you far away. Once she's got that idea, then you can try putting a box on the rug, about the same size of the rug if possible so she sees that the rug is there but has to interact with the box to get there. Voila--shaping with a box has begun. With some work, she'll have two successful shaping games with box and rug, then you can start with a whole new object. By now she should have a small understanding that she can offer behaviors instead of waiting for direction, and she'll probably try to interact with this new object.


    The more shaping you do, the better she will get at it. Mudflap never ceases to amaze me how quickly she catches on to things. I can hardly even call it shaping, lol. We've done so much shaping that now every time I have a new object, clicker, and treats, she automatically knows she has to do something with it. Zeke on the other hand is extremely hard to shape with...he is not food motivated, and although I have gotten him to finally take treats, he burns out extremely fast. He really doesn't enjoy working for food so I am trying to shape with his tennis ball as his reward, as he would jump the moon for his tennis ball. :D

    Hope this helps. :) Good luck!
    tigerlily46514 likes this.
  3. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    Oh, another idea that I've used. You can also toss a treat in a box or bowl or whatever. They go to get the treat, click and reward. Do this a few times and then don't put treat in box/bowl. They usually look at the box/bowl like, "Aren't you going to put a treat in there?" Click and reward. And eventually you'll get to nose in the box/bowl, then eventually maybe nose and foot, etc.
    tigerlily46514 likes this.
  4. Anneke Honored Member

    Your problem sounds soooo familiar!!!:) I have a dog who is classically trained and who just does not get the free shaping part of clickertraining. He would just not think for himself!
    I started out with the box. I would stand right next to the box and wait. Cooper would sit down next to the box and look at me. Then he would lie down and put his head on his feet. Shut down.
    After doing the boxthing a long, long time, he now shows more initiative when we do clickertraining, but I still have to do a lot of luring.
    Static objects are not interesting to my dog. So try moving it around.
    With the lid, hold it in your hand, move it arond as if it was a toy and click and treat when the show interest. Or like Tx says, put something yummie on it. (only problem with that is, that they might keep mouthing or licking it, even when there is nothing on it;))
    When she touched the lid in your hand consistanly, then put the lid on the floor. By now she knows the lid and will show more interrest in it. Or throw it like you would throw a toy.
    I was trying to find a vid of kikopup showing what I mean, but I can't find it right now.
    But watching her vids is worth while. http://www.youtube.com/user/kikopup
    tigerlily46514 likes this.
  5. sara Moderator

    I had a heck of a time with Mouse, my little Dachshund! opposite of TX, though, she is OBSESSED with food! and would spend ALL her time trying to get the food, without engaging her brain... so I used luring, which severely limited the number of things I could teach her, as she learns very slowly with luring (she is too focused on the food in my hand and would miss her marker). So one day, when she was 2, I put her fav. toy on the floor behind her, I sat down, and just waited... it felt like an eternity (10 minutes, actually) but she FINALLY clued in that she needed to do something with the toy!!! I video'd it, but haven't put it up on You Tube yet... I keep forgetting to.

    I just needed to get some patience... now I have a little shaping machine!!! By the way, Mouse is totally deaf and minimally sighted.
  6. whipple Well-Known Member

    Thank you everyone.
    Anneke, with the whole lid/hand thing, she just ignores the lid once its away from my hand and keeps trying to go after my hand. I've even tried pointing and when she tries to paw my hand I'll pull my hand away so she touches the lid, and she gets a jackpot, then back to square one. I'll keep trying, but I just don't know where to go. I do my best to go as slow as possible, but it just seems to make everything go backwards.
    tigerlily46514 likes this.
  7. Anneke Honored Member

    Hmm smart dog!! To get us thinking about how to solve this:LOL: Maybe you can take your hand off your arm to use it as a target???:D:p (Sorry, funny mood)
    Sometimes it takes a dog forever to get it.
    I can't think of anything to try next, right now...
    tigerlily46514 likes this.
  8. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    Whipple, i so understand, sometimes, my dog gets fairly complex tricks, right off the bat, and a cue that seems way more simple to me, Buddy struggles and struggles.
    go figure.

    Others may slap at me for saying this, but, sometimes, when my dog is struggling, i shelve the whole trick, and re-introduce in a month. Oddly, this seems to work, :confused: but i can't tell you how or why.
    But more than once, when i've struggled to get Buddy to understand a cue, i shelve it, and a month later, when we try again, WA-LA! Buddy suddenly "gets it" next time around.:eek:
    It's an option, and i was only suggesting it, as you are preggers (CONGRATS!:D ) and often, ppl with a bun in the oven have a lil less energy all around, and are prone to tire easily. Just a thought, to shelve it for right now.

    Teaching "pick up toys" seems to be easy enough trick, and very fun, for dogs to learn. It's my dogs favorite trick now,:D(he thinks it is a "game")
    and with that floor getting harder and harder for YOU to reach,:ROFLMAO: this cue might come in handy soon enough? I "cheated" and began with the toybox right under my dog's face,:ROFLMAO: so he could NOT miss!!!! and we went from there, but others begin with dog fetching the toy, but, i think my way is easier for the dog, but all dogs are unique.

    http://www.dogtrickacademy.com/members/forums/threads/teach-your-dog-to-clean-up.4331/
    Also, your success:D at teaching a trick, as well as seeing your good lil doggie picking up all his toys for you,:)
    can maybe help RE-strengthen your bond to your dog, since you are struggling with nausea:sick: at the smell of him.


    Make no mistake, i'm not advocating for you to give up the targetting, not at all, nope, not what i'm saying. I'm just thinking, with the sometimes limited energy of a pregnant woman, maybe just for now, for this season of your life, maybe conserving your own energy, and teaching your dog easy tricks might be more satisfying for right now.

    "Pick up Toys" seems to easy for most dogs to get it.:D

    If you do want to persist on targetting, which is a great goal, sure is,
    maybe maybe, attach lid to your hand? (i did that once for cross-paws trick, i taped the target item to my foot). Then slowly, slowly, move the target item, inch by inch, over to the floor, an inch at a time, so now your hand is only next to the lid, and fade your hand?

    otherwise, if you are tired, is nothing wrong with temporarily shelving tricky tricks for a second try later on. Surprising how some dogs DO "get it" on a second go around.

    BEST OF LUCK!!
    whipple likes this.
  9. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    and lol, Whipple, with a baby on the way,
    and fragrant diapers,:LOL:
    baby toys that are NOT for the dog,
    baby food here and there,
    dirty bibs with leftovers on them,
    trash containers full of diapers just calling out to the dog...
    prized baby outfits with tasty spit-up on them,
    interesting baby bottles with chewy tops and neato scents on them laying around....
    all so fun to chew on!!! :D all these items are all about to decend into your dog's world, and the doggie may be getting less attn as you recover, so doggie might be "on his own" a bit more in days to come, hunting around for "things to do"

    well,
    nothing wrong with teaching the dog "leave it" cue to get the doggie ready for his new baby!! :ROFLMAO: Post #10 in this thread (below) is how i taught "leave it" and my dog got the idea of what "leave it" meant right off the bat, easy cheesy and solid like a rock.
    http://www.dogtrickacademy.com/members/forums/threads/chances-3rd-chance.4363/#post-32337
    whipple likes this.
  10. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    <-----------wins prize for most complete thread derail ever.:ROFLMAO:
    whipple and Anneke like this.
  11. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    LOL Tigerlily.

    Ditto on benching tricks you're having a lot of trouble with. I do this too. If I'm having a really hard time teaching my dogs something, I abandon it for a while. It gives us both a chance to come at it with a fresh mind later. If I push at it and push at it and push at it then we both get more frustrated and more confused, so we just take a break from it and try again at another time. All the tricks I've done this with ended up super easy the second go round.

    Also being that you've been working with the lid and she obviously is very focused on your hand, try a whole new object. Target stick, post-it note, DVD case, literally ANYTHING different from the lid so you're basically starting fresh.
    OOH that just gave me another idea. Since she wants to target your hand, stick a post-it note on your hand. She might catch on quicker this way, and then you can gradually move it away from your hand---for instance move it up your arm little by little, and eventually maybe to your leg, and then eventually to something that isn't a part of you like the wall, the door, table, etc. Or if she gets the idea of hitting the post-it note on your hand, maybe hold your hand against the door so she gets used to seeing the post-it note against the door. Once she'll consistently target your hand in this position, try sticking the post-it note on the door and wait for her to see if she figures it out.
    If she figures that out, then start sticking the post-its on all kinds of stuff. She may not get it right away, so you can use shaping to get her to sort it out. This would be a veeeerrrry beginner-level shaping for her; she still has to think for herself, but she has a little bit of direction because she HAS learned that targeting the post-it gets her treats. If she does well with this, maybe try another object similar to the post-it--another squarish item. Or stick the post-it on another object you eventually want to shape with. Stick it on a DVD case for instance, and reward lots for targeting the post-it on the DVD case. Then either take it off and wait for her to target DVD case, or cut a few post-its into decreasing sizes so her target becomes smaller and smaller until it's gone and she's targetting the DVD case. Still requires some thinking for herself, which will prepare her for tougher shaping eventually. :)

    Just an idea. :)
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  12. whipple Well-Known Member

    Thanks everyone. So I did try the target with Kitana again, and I don't know why, but the silly thing got it. She touched the lid on the floor and it was nowhere near my hand. Maybe Sierra had a chat with her.
    Anyhow, we are trying a few things with Sierra to encourage her to make her contacts in agility, and its working rather well. One thing is getting her to lay down as soon as she hits a rug. Since shaping is generally not her thing, I'm going to try (this one time, hope it works) to get her to come to the rug with me, and I tell her "down" then OK and treat. Its my oldschool method. I figure I condition her enough times, she'll get it, and she naturally does stuff faster as she understands what to do. But I'm also do a One Rear Toe On method as well. We got a board, and I'm doing it the way I found online. So we're trying shaping with that. In the meatime when actually practicing with the equipment we are doing the lids at the bottom, and she knows to touch them so thats working out quite well.

    Anyhow, thank you everyone for your help! I appreciate it so much. And I am totally game for dropping some stuff if it gets to be too much. They both know enough we can just solidify what they know.
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  13. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    Good luck!! Glad you have made some progress. (y) Way to go!
  14. Pawtential Unleashed Experienced Member

    You have had some fantastic suggestions so I will be brief. My crossover dog - a BC mix was the same - he would sit and stare for as long as I would wait - then either lay down and look away or get up and walk away - he needed much more verbal conformation and it took him almost a year to start offering any kind of behaviors without prompting. [I realize now that I was pushing him too hard and he was shutting down]

    If you are looking for a paw target - this is a nice Post it note video:


    If the dog knows Shake you can also ask for Shake several times then when they are in the swing of it - put a post it note or soft foam craft circle in your hand and ask for it again. They are already offering part of the behavior and most dogs will be okay touching something soft with their paw without too much difficulty.

    As always - mileage varies by dog... :cool:
    tigerlily46514 likes this.
  15. Evie Experienced Member

    When i was teaching Evie to target I started with an object in my hand which she was fine with, but the moment i moved it elsewhere she had no idea what i wanted and kept targetting my hand -.-

    I wanted to be able to get her to target the door with her nose (to eventually get her to close doors :D) so I grabed some red electrical tape, made a nice little red square )about 4cm x 4cm and taped the square to the door at nose height. Then put my hand behind the door and asked her to 'touch it'. The first few gos were a bit hit and miss, but she worked it all out VERY quickly which was odd considering i couldn't get her to touch any other object that I wasn't holding. Her only problem now is that she gets that enthusiastic about touching the door and when i ask her to touch it, she's decided that the door closes quicker if she uses her paw too...
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  16. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    some random thoughts that occurred to me while reading this thread.....

    Some dogs zone out, if they have short attention spans, too, or if they are generally unfamiliar with tricks training, (being rewarded for doing "odd" things) won't know to offer behaviors. Which is Not the same thing as a dog shutting down in confusion, as described in some of the posts above, but some dogs learning tricks do zone out after a while...at first they ARE offering a trick, going along with it,:D
    and then, they zone out.:( They've reached their end of their current "time limit" to pay attention to that particular trick. Keeping lessons super short at first, *might* help such dogs, worth a try.

    Some clicker-trained dogs get stoked to see that clicker, and know, "time to figure something out", the very sight of the clickerO_o is a stimulus to offer behaviors for some dogs.
    ~~~~
    Lol, congrats on the progress, Evie, if you only want a nose-push shut the door, of course, don't reward the paw-push. Smart dog, though, gotta admit that, the dog IS right!!:ROFLMAO: lolz.

    This thread might not be helpful, as it is not exactly 'shaping' a trick, imo,
    but, reply #6 in this thread
    http://www.dogtrickacademy.com/members/forums/threads/tips-survivng-the-heat.3843/#post-27199
    is how i taught my dog to nose a sign(and NOSE only, no paws!)
    that i'd made for him, to let me know when HE wants some ice to eat.

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