Posts Tagged 'button clickers'

Tuesday Tips for Tired Trainers: #5 Clickers at Hand

Quite a while back, I said I wanted to do a series of Tips for Tired Trainers. I didn’t realize it was going to be so hard to keep the notes visible and updated on Facebook, so I’ve decided to try to do a regular feature on my blog — just short posts of tips. Since I already have a Wednesday and Thursday feature, I thought I’d do Tuesday Tips for Tired Trainers. As with the other features, I probably won’t manage to do it every week, but I’ll do my best.

I already posted several tips as a page here, but I have so many now (I’ve been working on a document on my own), that I think breaking it up and doing it as a series will work better. I am actually hoping to eventually turn this into a book.

I really encourage comments and feedback. If you have a chronic illness or an intermittent or time-limited source of fatigue (such as migraines or chemotherapy), I’d really like to hear from you: What are the most challenging skills to train when you’re exhausted? Or general dog-stewardship issues affected by the limiting effects of fatigue?

Here is one of the tips that was not included in the tips page I link to above.

5. Have clicker, will travel — or stay put!

I try to have clickers wherever I go. Searching for clickers uses valuable physical and mental energy. I have one or more on a wrist coil on my powerchair joystick, and then I also have them in every room of the house (including bathrooms) and in the car. You can also keep one on a cord around your neck, around your wrist on a coil, or in your pocket (see below about potential issues arising from i-Clicks in pockets). This makes it easier to do short sessions on the fly and to capture behaviors.

Which Clicker Do YOU Click With?

It’s good to try out different styles of clickers to see which work best for you. I usually use a box clicker on a wrist coil or on a finger loop for most of my training, but if I’m doing something near Barnum’s head/ears, I might choose the Clik-R or the i-Click because they’re quieter.

The box clickers works best for me (as long as they have either a finger loop or a wrist coil attachment) because…

  • I’m less likely to lose them.
  • They seem sturdier and last longer/put up with more abuse.
  • My timing is better with them. I don’t know why, but I find myself clicking late more often with the i-Click. This doesn’t just reduce effectiveness of training, but it causes me physical and mental stress, which adds up to more fatigue.
  • If I have an i-Click in a pocket, on my lap, or on my joystick and I accidentally bump into it or bend over onto it, etc., it clicks! Then I have to pay up, even though there was not necessarily any desirable behavior occurring at that time!

That said, not all box clickers are created equal. The ones from ClickerTraining.com or Clean Run are the best, in my experience. I once got some from PetCo, and they are much bigger and it takes more force to make the sound (depress the metal part).

Large bright red clicker with keychain loop.

I do not recommend the PetCo clicker.

They are also very loud – and have a particularly concussive quality, which can be useful if the dog is at a distance, but for people with neurological issues, might be intolerable. The difficulty of depressing the metal part (and the delay this causes in clicking) make them my least favorite clicker. I use them as backups, only.

There are also many benefits to push-button clickers. The most well-known is Karen Pryor’s i-Click.

Circle of red, geen, blue, and black i-Clicks. These are oval-shaped clickers with a yellow button sticking out at one end, and a thin molded plastic loop at the other end. There is an indentation below the button to rest your thumb between clicks.

The i-Click is immensely popular, especially with novice trainers and those who like to use it as a foot clicker to keep their hands free.

The other external-button clickers I’m familiar with are the Clik-R (made by Premier) and the StarMark clicker.

The i-Click and Clik-R are quieter than most box clickers, which might be helpful for people with neurological conditions who find loud clicks jarring. They are easier to use and manipulate for some people with hand coordination or strength issues. (The Clik-R is particularly sensitive to a light touch.)

Purple clicker, a fat oval around a small green external button and then a thick rectangular "neck" below with a molded loop for attaching a string, coil, or key-chain. On the back is a thick green elastic loop. Below the button, in neon green are the words "Clik-R" and in smaller letters, "Premier."

The Clik-R by Premier.

The StarMark clicker is larger and louder than the i-Click, and may fit better into the palm of the hand for some who want something more substantial and grippable.

A large royal blue, egg-shaped clicker with an orange button at the fatter part and a sturdy plastic loop at the bottom for attaching a cord or loop.

This clicker is good if you want a large and very loud button clicker.

The button clickers also have the advantage of being easily usable with body parts other than the hands. They can be used in the mouth, under foot, taped to an armrest and whacked with the heel of your palm, etc. It all depends on what works for you.

Sue Ailsby turns her box clickers into toe clickers by cutting off part of the top so she can put her big toe in the clicker. If you have better foot than hand control, this might be a good option for you, although most who have good foot control like to tape an i-Click to the floor or a wheelchair footrest and click it by pressing their foot down.

You can also modify a box clicker by gluing a “button” (a peg of some sort, such as a one-half inch piece of dowel or the end of a wooden spoon) where you would normally press with your finger.

The main thing is to test out what works while training. Don’t be afraid to tell your dog “Gimme a break” (see tip #2 in previous post) while you switch clickers to see if a different type will work better for you.

Also, even clickers made by the same company will vary slightly in sound and ease of clicking; like dogs and people, while the “breed” may give you a sense of what to expect, individuals always vary. Test them out to find which one is the easiest for you. I have a particular favorite box clicker from Karen Pryor Clicker Training that makes a nice “pop” with very little pressure, which is not as true of the other clickers I got in that same batch.

There are also finger clickers — which just have a little elastic loop on one end of a box clicker, that make it easier to have “in hand,” which you can get from Clean Run.

A box clicker, blue on top and white underneath. The bottom has a cartoon of a dog creeping toward a starting line and the words, "Clean Run" underneath with the company phone number. At the top end of the clicker is a blue elastic band, the same kind as a hair elastic.

I am fond of my finger clickers.

The Clik-R has an elastic loop for your finger to go in, but I find it cuts off my circulation unless I use a really small finger or just a finger tip. If you have particularly thin fingers, this might not be an issue for you. If you are crafty — and have the energy! — you might even want to make one for yourself that does fit your fingers, as Michele  Fry explains, here. This is the solution if the Clik-R doesn’t fit your hand or finger, but you want an elastic loop on the back of a standard size and shape box clicker.

The cheapest way to keep clickers wherever you need them is to buy several at once (such as from ClickerTraining.com). The more you order at once, the cheaper they are. If you have friends who train as well, you can go in on an order together and save on shipping, too. If you can’t afford to buy several clickers, and you are able to go to stores or dog events, you can ask test out various clickers and see what works for you before you buy or order new ones.

I hope you find a solution that clicks!

-Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, SDiT and clicker aficionado


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