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 ARTICLES > Clicker Training > Clicker Tips
  Clicker Training  Article:
Article By: Karen Pryor       

The limited hold- by Karen Pryor PART 2


With the “come” cue, often a dawdly behavior, it can be hard to gauge what’s faster and what’s slower just by watching. In this case a methodical application of a limited hold can be useful. Think of the limited hold as a single criterion, like height of a jump, duration of a sit, strength of a push. You can train it in one situation, and then extend the criterion to other times and places. So, in the example of a dog that sniffs and dawdles over every blade of grass en route to the back door, you might train a low-latency recall indoors, first, and then gradually add speed as a criterion of the recall, in other circumstances. A long hallway is a great place to do this. Mark a chalk line across the floor at each end of the hall. Stand behind the line at one end. Enlist a helper to call or lead the dog back to the other end of the hall between each run, or to hold the dog while you move to the other end. Make the run very short (five feet or so) the first few times, clicking the dog’s arrival at the chalk line and giving a highly preferred treat.

Now extend the run to the length of the hall. How are you going to tell which of two similar runs was faster? Most of us recite the alphabet at a pretty steady rate. You can use that to measure small increments of improvement. “Come,” you say, and as the dog shambles toward you, you recite a-b-c-d-e-f-g-h-i-j-k-l until he crosses your chalk line, whereupon you click and treat. On the next run you’ll know if he speeds up a little, because he will reach you by h or j instead o! f k. Goo d! Click/treat. And of course if he takes longer, you’ll know that too.

The object is not to punish slower runs, but to pay for faster ones. You make you criterion roomy enough so that most, but not all, of the runs are within your chosen limit. The procedure itself may naturally speed up the dog. As he begins to pick up speed you can introduce the limited hold: choose the maximum letter you’ll tolerate, and if he doesn’t get there by that letter, change ends and call him back the other way. I have seen the world’s slowest Newfie, who plodded all the way to l-m-n-o-p on his first try, end up by responding to the “come” cue at a nice canter, getting to me by b-c-d, after about fifteen clicks and treats.

Oh, of course this works with people. When I’m lecturing with a new group of people, for example, at the very beginning I ask for quiet with a gesture, a raised hand. Generally everyone goes on talking. Then I get down from the podium and go around the room for about thirty seconds, clicking and handing a treat (Hershey’s Kisses) to any people who are being quiet. The next time I ask for quiet, usually when starting up again after a break, I stand still and look at my watch. When most of the people have stopped talking, I click into the microphone and say Good! And start talking.

“If you are attentive to selectively reinforcing brisk responses to cues in a few crucial
 responses—paying only for low latency responses—all of that learner’s cue responses
will tend to be brisker.”

By the third time it happens the audience falls silent, except for a giggle here and there (“She’s training us!”) as soon as I step up to the podium and raise my hand. I’ve established a cue, the raised hand, and I’ve also shaped a good low latency response.

As Bob and Marian Bailey put it, latencies are contagious. If you are attentive to selectively reinforcing brisk responses to cues in a few crucial responses—paying only for lo! w latenc y responses—all of that learner’s cue responses will tend to be brisker. That makes for a sharp-looking worker! On the other hand, if you generally accept and pay for any eventual response to your cue or request, even if it took the learner (the dog, the child, the teenager, the spouse) forever to actually do it, then high latencies and long waits is what you’ll get in general. One example I’ve experienced personally is the difference between getting on one of the guest riding horses at a dude ranch, and getting on a working cowpony, a cutting or roping horse. The horse in the riding stable starts up into a slow walk after you’ve kicked it a few times, and requires several kicks and some urging to break into a trot. Steering it may also require some effort, and it stops slowly too, going from a canter down to a jog and finally a slow walk again. The cutting horse moves on a dime, in contrast, moves and changes speed and direction instantly, on the smallest of cues. What a pleasure; the latencies are so low it feels as if all you have to do is think what you want the horse to do, and it’s already happening.

And all you need to do, to have your own learners respond that way, is to value and reinforce quick responses to cues, withhold reinforcement for slow responses, and, when the difference is hard to measure, reach for that useful tool, the limited hold.

Happy Clicking!

With Kind Permission from Karen Pryor: Many more wonderful articles can be found at www.clickertraining.com

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