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Duration:04:59
Uploaded:2015-06-19
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Jessi explains the next step in training an animal - communicating with a clicker. Behavior, marker, reinforcement. Repeat. What's the most important part of communicating with clicker training? Watch and find out.

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Welcome back to Animal Wonders, I'm Jessi and this week we're gonna talk more about training and behavior.


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If you haven't already watched our first two episodes on training, you can find them here. *gestures to annotations*We've learned about law of effect and operant conditioning. 

Once you've watched those you'll know that an animal's behavior increases and decreases depending on how they feel immediately following a behavior. 

And you'll know that you can have a direct effect on how an animal feels by giving them certain reinforcements and punishments. So now you're ready to learn the next tool in communicating with an animal and shaping their behavior.

We're going to focus on increasing the chances that a certain behavior will occur again. We'll do this by using positive reinforcement, which is giving an animal something that makes them feel good. 

Remember "positive" is "giving" and "good" means "reinforcing", so positive reinforcement can be as simple as giving them a tasty treat. Or, it could mean giving them a toy, or giving them a massage, or even verbal praise.

So we know that using positive reinforcement will increase a behavior, but how do we get an animal to do something that we want them to do?

Getting an animal to understand what we want them to do can be a little tricky because they don't speak human, and we can't speak animal. 

Or can we? 

If you aren't Doctor Dolittle, you can do the next best thing and you can bridge the gap of communication by using something that we call a "marker". 

A marker is a way of telling an animal the exact point in time that they did something that you liked. 

A marker is usually a sound. It can be a word or a whistle, but most commonly used is a clicker. A clicker is just a tool that makes a very precise and identifying noise. *clicking sound*

The click is the marker. It's basically saying, "Yes, that's it!" to the animal, which is what you're trying to communicate. But first, you have to teach the animal what the noise signifies. You have to make the click mean that something great is about to happen. 

To introduce your animal to the clicker, click *clicking sound*, and immediately follow with a very small but delicious treat.

You want to do a bit of experimenting to figure out what your animal finds the most reinforcing, or most delicious, make sure it's healthy, so you can do it multiple times a day without spoiling their diet. 

If it's not that healthy, try and use the smallest, tiny, little reinforcements possible, so you can stretch out the number of times that you can give it throughout the day.

I like to use the animal's normal, daily diet whenever possible because when we're done with the training session I can just give them the rest of whatever we didn't use. 

Alright, are you ready? 

Be close to your animal, click *clicking sound*, immediately offer the treat, and then wait twenty seconds. Repeat.

What you're doing is teaching the animal to associate the clicking noise with the good feeling of getting a treat. We're using the law of effect here. 

Repeat this process until the animal has paired the click with the anticipation of the treat. And you'll know this has happened when they make a visible response to the noise of the click. 

They'll stop whatever they're doing, *clicking sound* they'll focus on you, and expect a treat to be delivered. 

This makes the clicker not only a marker, but also a bridge. It bridges the gap between when the behavior occurred and the receiving of the reinforcement.  

Congratulations, you now have a new tool to use! 

But wait, now comes the tricky part. 

You must use this new tool with precision, and it's not as easy as it might look. Timing is one of the most important things when it comes to positive reinforcement and clicker training.

You now need to choose what behavior you want to work on. I suggest you use a very simple, but very useful behavior. Targeting.

Targeting is when an animal touches a certain body part to a designated object. I like to use my closed hand, and have them touch their nose to it. 

So their nose physically touching my hand gets them their treat. 

Using the clicker, communicate with your animal when they have successfully done the desired behavior. 

Don't make it hard, it's not supposed to be a challenge. You're building trust and establishing the foundation for a beautiful communication between two species. 

Put the treat inside your hand. Hold it out towards the animal. Hopefully the animal will either smell the treat, or want to investigate your hand. 

When their nose touches your fist *clicking sound*, click the clicker at the exact moment the contact occurs, then immediately open your hand, and give them their reinforcement. 

Wait at least 20 seconds, and then repeat. 

If you're working with a smaller animal, use a smaller target. A stick with a designated end can work for birds, rats, guinea pigs, or other littles. 

Now remember, *clicking sound* click at the exact moment that the contact occurs, and immediately follow it with a treat. Once this behavior is established, then you can start moving your target. Have the animal lean, or turn, or take a step towards the target. 

You have now learned how to use the clicker as a marker and bridge for positive reinforcement in operant conditioning training. 

Have fun with it, get creative! Try "rising up", "in a circle", "lay down", "spin around"!

See what you can accomplish with just targeting. 

If you want to continue learning about training, you can subscribe to our YouTube channel, Animal Wonders, and go on an adventure with us every week! If you have any questions on training throughout the week, you can find me on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook. Thanks, guys!  

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