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Karen's Articles

Clicker Litter

How soon can you begin training puppies? As soon as their eyes and ears are open, according to some breeders, who are using the clicker on whole litters of pups, even before they are weaned. Why would you want to do that? Well, the clicker means good things are coming. The puppy that makes that connection can then learn that its own actions sometimes cause those clicks that lead to treats. And the puppy that makes that discovery has a big start on a happy future.

BedTime Stories

Understanding reinforcement training can't repair physical or neurological deficits, and it won't replace the help that only skilled professionals can give, but it can make life easier for everyone. Parents are learning to shape appropriate behavior instead of accidentally reinforcing inappropriate behavior: to reinforce silence not noise, play, not tantrums. It is not that they are "treating their children like animals", an ever popular prejudiced attack; clicker training is not about animals or people. It is about better ways of teaching and learning. Best of all, you don't need a PH.D to be an effective shaper. Recently I was driving home from an outing with my daughter and her family when her fourteen-month-old began to yell. He wasn't crying-yet, anyway- he was just making a very loud noise to protest the length of the drive and his incarceration in his car seat: and we were still twenty minutes from home. My seven-year-old grandson Wylie, in the backseat with his little brother, calmly got rid of the yelling by reinforcing longer and longer periods of silence. The marker? Wylie's grin. The reinforcer? One lick of Wylie's lollipop.

Falconry and Modern Operant Conditioning

In the last five years, since training thousands of people, mostly dog owners, to use operant conditioning creatively, I've come to be aware that the conditioned reinforcer is much more important and useful than I knew, and that it has many functions besides telling the animal it's earned a treat. All of these functions can apply in falconry to make your life easier, your bird happier, your control more reliable, and your hunting and other interactions more successful and enjoyable.

The Training Game

The Training Game is a great way to sharpen your shaping skills and have fun at the same time. It allows you to see and experience other trainers' decision points, and to be aware of what you might have done instead. It also allows trainers to make mistakes, and learn from them, without confusing some poor animal or unsuspecting person! Maybe most valuable of all, it allows you to see the training process from the viewpoint of the trainee, which is often a highly illuminating experience. The training game also helps us get rid of the superstitious behavior of putting the blame for problems on the person or animal we are working with, instead of on the training contingencies, where it belongs.