How the Clicker+ improves clicker training
Q: Can the Clicker+ improve how you teach others?
A: I teach a lot of folks how to train their dogs. The dogs aren't the challenge, usually. It's the people. So, I really wanted a tool that let people know when they had good timing or gave good feedback to their dogs. I talked with Karen Pryor about this problem and she suggested using the different clicks on the Clicker+ to help the students learn.
Here's how it works. With the Clicker+, I pick one unique click to mark the behavior of my students and a separate unique click for the dogs. For example, at my class we decided that "ping" would be the marker signal for the people. I let folks know that when I see them giving good feedback to their dogs that I will TAG them (in TAGteach, that is the term used in clicker training people). I typically show the exercise we are teaching and walk around and give help individually. With the Clicker+ I am able to instantly give feedback.
It is so simple and effective to TAG my pet parents when they look at their dog, their dog looks back and they treat, and anytime they give good feedback. As a result, I can see that people are learning much faster—they quickly get a feel for what I am showing them. (Another interesting thing happened too—my students started noticing when others gave good feedback!) Using the Clicker+ as a TAGteaching tool is making my job of teaching so much easier. It's more reinforcing for me too, as folks are understanding concepts so much more quickly. What may have taken some folks weeks to learn previously, they are now getting in one session. I feel more effective.
Q: The Clicker+ has an unusual finger strap. What lead to that innovation?
A: We wanted the design to improve the mechanics of clicker training, from holding the clicker to reinforcing and especially to help improve timing.
In the past, I've been challenged by the mechanics of holding the clicker: should I have it on a wrist strap or a finger strap, and where is the dang thing when I need it? Also, I'd get frustrated when I would miss a clickable moment because I was getting ready.
With the Clicker+, mechanics and timing are greatly improved. You simply plant the Clicker+ on your finger—and the problem is solved. The clicker is always where it needs to be. I use it on my index finger and my middle finger but I prefer the middle finger (that way I can still grab a treat between my first two fingers if I want to). Most often I treat with my opposite hand but either way, now the clicker is really out of the way.
The strap is always there, already attached to the clicker. I can still use the wrist strap if I want to, and I do have one that I use just for that but I like being able to wear it on my finger and know that it is there, ready for a click.
Q: The Clicker+ is the first clicker to provide people multiple "click" sounds and two volume settings. If we don't train other people, do we need these options?
A: The Clicker+ has four sounds, each with an indoor and outdoor volume. I like the additional sounds. We did a lot of work to examine the harmonic properties that make the traditional click so effective and our three additional sounds mimic those properties. So at one level it's just plain fun to have more options. Variety is the spice of life. At another, more serious level there are some distinct benefits to both multiple sounds and the volume options.
I think dogs can hear both volumes most of the time, but the indoor volume is more comfortable for a trainer and their dog in settings where there isn't much ambient noise. Where there is a lot of noise, the loud click is easier for both to hear, and hearing that click is part of the cycle of improving your timing. More sounds give me flexibility. I am finding it is much easier to train multiple animals when they each have a distinct marker signal.
For example, each of my dogs can have their own sound and know when I am working with them only. When I am shaping a new behavior I often take the dogs out to train with their marker signal individually. It is easy to teach a dog what their new marker signal is: pair the new sound with three or four treats and you are ready to go. I also still use the traditional click sound as a universal marker. I can click the whole group of dogs—say for following me back in the kennel or being quiet—and they know that sound. Since I live with four dogs it is nice to reinforce them at times as a group.
I also have a unique sound (the chirp) for my parrot, a sound that the dogs don't know and don't respond to. I used to have to put the dogs out when I was clicking the bird—now she gets her "chirp" for making silly neat sounds in her cage while the dogs are hanging out. They don't start offering behaviors when they hear her "chirp" and she enjoys getting her reinforcement. I like teaching her to entertain herself when I am busy in the kitchen. She can't be out when the dogs are around so this helps our relationship. We can "talk" to each other even when she is still in her cage.