Author Topic: Clicker vs Marker Training: Opinions?  (Read 789 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Solace

  • Active Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 313
  • Location: California
  • Mood: Tired
  • SDC interest: owner-trainer
Clicker vs Marker Training: Opinions?
« on: June 30, 2017, 07:17:32 PM »
I am probably overthinking this, I know.  I can't decide whether to go with a clicker or just use a marker word.  The sound of a clicker is loud to me and a bit jarring.  I looked online for quiet clickers and bought one that I kept reading was quieter than normal.  It's still loud.  I'd go with marker training but I keep reading how much more precise a clicker is.  So I start to think that maybe I'll adjust to the clicker.  Then I think I may not and I'll have wasted time and effort with the clicker and wish I'd just gone with a marker word.

What do you all prefer?  Pros and cons?  Opinions?  Experiences?

Offline Kirsten

  • Administrator
  • *****
  • Posts: 39437
  • Have a flufftastic day!
  • Location: Missouri, USA
  • Mood: Okay
  • SDC interest: owner-trainer
Re: Clicker vs Marker Training: Opinions?
« Reply #1 on: June 30, 2017, 07:43:41 PM »
A clicker is completely repeatable and has no intrinsic value while a spoken word is influenced by tone and inflection and is not exactly the same each time it is spoken.  A clicker is more precise (of shorter duration) than most words.  A clicker is unlikely to be heard outside of a training session but trainers often say words like "yes" with great frequency in ordinary conversation.

A clicker can be left behind, but your voice is always with you.  Using voice leaves both hands free while a clicker usually ties up one hand.

Instead of a traditional clicker you can use the click of a ball point pen or the top from a baby food jar or Snapple cap for a softer sounding click.

Whether you choose use a clicker or a verbal cue is a personal choice.  There is no one correct answer that would apply to everyone.
Kirsten and Tardis
In loving memory of Cole (1/11/99 - 6/26/12)  He gave me back my life.

"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog." -George G. Vest

Offline Moonsong

  • Dog Training Student
  • Old Timer
  • *****
  • Posts: 2274
  • My SD is my Super (hero) Dog
  • Location: Arizona USA
  • Mood: Sad
  • SDC interest: owner-trainer
Re: Clicker vs Marker Training: Opinions?
« Reply #2 on: July 01, 2017, 02:44:32 PM »
I have used a clicker in the past. I now prefer marker words. I agree with Kirsten that it depends on the person. However, here's where I made my decision:

Like Kirsten said, I can give more or less value to a marker. I can just say "yes" for a regular mark and "YES!!!" for a jackpot.

I have a negative marker as well as positive. A clicker just means "yes", no corrections. With marker words, I can say "yes" to mark what I like, and "no" to mark what I don't like.

I can take back a marker. For example, if Max sits and I start to say "yes", and then he starts laying down, I can change it mid-word "yee-no." It probably doesn't make sense to him, meaning I don't mark either way, but at least I'm not positively marking an unwanted behavior. You can't take back a click.

Like Kirsten said, I don't have to carry it around; it can neither be left behind nor take up space.

Also, while in public, it attracts less attention to say "yes!" then it does to make a clicking sound. Especially if we're in a quiet area; I can lower the volume of my voice to an extremely excited whisper. Max still hears my enthusiasm, but it's quiet. A clicker can't really change it's volume.

Those are all just my opinions, my experience, what worked for me. They may not hold true for everyone.
Max - shih tzu/poodle- SDiT  Max's Facebook Page
Kirby - Pied Cockatiel - official bird of SDC
My YouTube channel (I love receiving feedback on my training methods!)

Offline Kirsten

  • Administrator
  • *****
  • Posts: 39437
  • Have a flufftastic day!
  • Location: Missouri, USA
  • Mood: Okay
  • SDC interest: owner-trainer
Re: Clicker vs Marker Training: Opinions?
« Reply #3 on: July 01, 2017, 03:19:16 PM »
A marker is supposed to have no intrinsic value, whether it is a clicker or a word.  By definition it is a conditioned or secondary reinforcer (no intrinsic value aka neutral, as opposed to a primary reinforcer which has intrinsic value). If you give it an inflection that adds meaning it is no longer a marker but praise or correction.
Kirsten and Tardis
In loving memory of Cole (1/11/99 - 6/26/12)  He gave me back my life.

"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog." -George G. Vest

Offline Summertime.and.Azkaban

  • Resident Terrier Wrangler
  • Old Timer
  • *****
  • Posts: 1950
  • Holli and Azkaban
  • Location: North Carolina USA
  • Mood: Tired
  • SDC interest: owner-trainer
Re: Clicker vs Marker Training: Opinions?
« Reply #4 on: July 01, 2017, 03:39:57 PM »
I use clickers for things that I want to capture or need precise timing to reinforce. Like silence in a dog that yodels in their crate.

I like clicker training for specific things, like chaining nose touches into shutting doors. It's hard for me personally to be neutral in a verbal marker so I use a clicker to do things that require precision and not a lot of excitement. When I try to use verbal markers for things that require a delicate hand (or nose) I end up exciting the dog and they end up using too much force. For most other things I use verbal markers.

I keep my clicker loaded by using it every time we drill, just a few times, in place of verbal praise. That way I can pull it out and use it at will instead of having to warm up and make sure my clicker is loaded.
-Azkaban, Rayner, and Chewy-
"I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights" -Desmond Tutu
PM me about being pen pals or receiving a holiday card in the mail!

Offline Tuttleturtle

  • Official Welcomer
  • *
  • Posts: 4419
  • Location: Massachusetts
  • Mood: Brain fog
  • SDC interest: ESA owner
Re: Clicker vs Marker Training: Opinions?
« Reply #5 on: July 01, 2017, 04:44:05 PM »
Another thing to think about is if you're actually going to be precise with a clicker or precise with a marker word. Not everyone will be able to click when they want to click, so if you can't, you won't want to try to use a clicker.
http://turtleisaverb.blogspot.com/
Ada - ESA and Migraine Alert Cat
Pippin - pet (washout rehomed to us)

Offline JKmelda

  • Old Timer
  • *****
  • Posts: 1699
  • Location: USA
  • Mood: Exhausted
  • SDC interest: curious
Re: Clicker vs Marker Training: Opinions?
« Reply #6 on: July 01, 2017, 06:40:08 PM »
Another thing to think about is if you're actually going to be precise with a clicker or precise with a marker word. Not everyone will be able to click when they want to click, so if you can't, you won't want to try to use a clicker.

Yes.

Disability can play a role in which type of marker can work. For example, due to a few different conditions, I can't always speak clearly or at all, or else I repeat a word over and over again or at the wrong time. So using a marker word wouldn't work for me because I might not be able to say the word or I'll say it at the wrong time, which defeats the purpose. But there are people on the other side of the equation who don't always have the motor control in their hands to use a clicker consistently.
I've been very low on spoons lately, so I apologize if my posts replies are short and late in coming.

"Can't go over it, Can't go under it, Can't go around it, Got to go through it!"

Offline Ariel

  • Scruffmaster Extraordinaire
  • Old Timer
  • *****
  • Posts: 4421
  • Location: North Carolina, USA
  • Mood: Cynical
  • SDC interest: SD partner
Re: Clicker vs Marker Training: Opinions?
« Reply #7 on: July 01, 2017, 07:29:15 PM »
I've used both clicker and verbal markers in training all of my dogs. I don't always have fantastic timing because my fingers will bend awkwardly or it's difficult to comfortably hold the clicker. I can talk faster than I can click unless I'm really concentrating. Because of this, verbal markers are easier and more accurate. I use a conversational tone and volume "yes" to mark, the reward follows. The reward is preempted by the marker word, the marker word is not the reward. There are some things it's easier to do with a clicker though, like working on soliciting eye contact. Much easier to say "Jubi *click* Jubi *click*" than it is to say "Jubi, yes, Jubi, yes." Sometimes the clicker is faster and it's also easier to unintentionally add too much energy into the marker if getting extra excited. I would be the "other side of the equation" JK is talking about, because while I can use a clicker, I'm better with a marker directly because of how my disability impacts me.
Jubilee - Service Dog - German Wirehaired Pointer
Jubi's FB page!
In Loving Memory of Service Dog Saxon (6/5/13-12/2/15)

Offline Solace

  • Active Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 313
  • Location: California
  • Mood: Tired
  • SDC interest: owner-trainer
Re: Clicker vs Marker Training: Opinions?
« Reply #8 on: July 02, 2017, 06:52:35 PM »
What is the reasoning behind a having a marker with no intrinsic value?

Offline Kirsten

  • Administrator
  • *****
  • Posts: 39437
  • Have a flufftastic day!
  • Location: Missouri, USA
  • Mood: Okay
  • SDC interest: owner-trainer
Re: Clicker vs Marker Training: Opinions?
« Reply #9 on: July 02, 2017, 07:59:14 PM »
If it has intrinsic value, then you aren't doing clicker/marker training.  If you are using a primary reinforcer or primary punisher (a feedback that has value) then you are doing traditional training.  Which is fine.  You can do that.  But you do it somewhat differently

A marker is supposed to be a secondary reinforcer or bridge between the event to be rewarded and the reward.  It's not part reward itself.  It is something that has no meaning to the dog until it is "charged."  It doesn't mean anything good and it doesn't mean anything bad.  It's just there.

Why must it have no intrinsic value?  Because it's meaning is "the reinforcer is coming," no more and no less.  If you give it multiple meanings by using something that already has meaning and adding on "the reinforcer is coming," then you are being less clear and less consistent to the dog.  The more consistent and clear you are, the faster your dog will learn.

https://clickertraining.com/node/275
https://clickertraining.com/node/2021

Note:  Karen Pryor has a bias.  She likes clickers, not voice markers, and as I said there are advantages to each which are going to depend a lot on your individual abilities and situation.

I have my own bias.  I am not a clicker trainer per se, but a balance trainer.  I use clickers.  I use voice markers.  I use corrections.  And if I had a focus in dog training, it would be cognition and communication rather than behavior modification.

I'm particular about information accuracy.  With the internet as it is now you can find a very wide range of interpretations of techniques, some of which are accurate, some of which are helpful even if not accurate in their explanation of theory, and many that are so misinformed as to encourage you to do things that are counterproductive.  So how do you choose which advice to follow?  With critical thinking.  If you find errors of fact, then you give less weight to that source.  How do you learn what is fact and what is internet myth or rumor?  Well I'll point them out any time I see them.  So that you and other members can use critical thinking to evaluate resources.

Here's an explanation of what a secondary reinforcer or marker is, scientifically:  https://www.alleydog.com/glossary/definition.php?term=Secondary%20Reinforcer 

If you want reliable sources on clicker or marker training, go to Karen Pryor (including other trainers/authors in her organization), Gary Wilkes (whose website is currently hosed, but it will get fixed), Kayce Cover/Synalia (she does bridge and target which is an offshoot of clicker/marker training), Michael Ellis (uses voice markers and works with very high drive dogs), Sue Ailsby (Training Levels).  There are bunches more but if you're evaluating a new source, compare it to these known reliable sources for accuracy.  If there is a high level of agreement and your new source introduces a new idea not covered by the others, then you have more confidence they know what they are talking about than if you just saw a video on YouTube that looked interesting and decided to give it a try.  I'm going to add Suzanne Clothier who has many years of good solid dog training advice in articles on her site but with a caviat.  Her earlier stuff includes corrections.  Last time I saw her several years ago, she was very into clicker/marker training and very very rarely using things like prong collars any more.  I'm still fine with prong collars (remember I'm a balance trainer), but if you want pure clicker training info, look for her more recent stuff over the last decade or so.  I watched her do some free shaping with a corgi and she was very very good (and it was a corgi borrowed from an attendee).

I watch a ridiculous amount of YouTube.  I review knitting, tatting, spinning, and dog training videos.  There's a lot of nonsense out there and sometimes the really valuable information isn't in the slickly produced videos but is grainy and homemade looking while high production value videos contain drivel.  This is annoying in knitting, tatting and spinning, but it's not going to get me or my dog hurt.  Some dog training videos will, if you blindly follow them.  So be a skeptic and cherry pick your information based on quality of the source.  None of the people I mentioned above is going to recommend something truly stupid although they represent some different philosophies on dog training.
Kirsten and Tardis
In loving memory of Cole (1/11/99 - 6/26/12)  He gave me back my life.

"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog." -George G. Vest