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Service Cats: What Is Clicker Training & Operant Conditioning & Do They Work With Cats

Welcome, to Service Cat Monday with RaenaBelle. That’s right, in keepin’ with the thought that sis Dezi is off at Summer camp (it’s really virutal, she’s right here), I’s takin’ over the bloggy includin’ Service Cat Monday. You all ‘member to tell her I’s did a good job, K? Anyways, I think I’s s’posed to get the disclaimer stuffs outta the way furst. The followin’ post will be written in human English fur translator and reader ease. Our Trainin’ posts aren’t meant to be a step by step training manual but rather, Tips/Tricks/Techniques that mommy has used/developed throughout her many years of training animals, cats on purrticular. Training is all about Repetition and Rewards and takes time. Ifin you have any questions or topics you would like us to cover, purrlease leave them in the comments section or send us an email. Ifin askin’ about behavioral issues, purrlease be as specific as pawssible. And, ifin you’ve missed any of the posts in this series, you can ketch up by clicking the links below. Now, let’s get to our question. 

 

 Raena sits on butterfly scratcher in harness

 

Layla, from Cat Wisdom 101 asked, “What are your thoughts on Clicker training and Operant Conditioning?” Well, we explained a bit about Clicker training in a prior post, but we’ll talk a bit about it for those of you that missed that post. First, let me explain what Clicker Training is. The trainer, holds a small clicker in one hand, a treat in the other, and clicks the clicker when the animal performs correctly, immediately followed by a treat as the reward. The hopes are that the animal will eventually learn the behavior and will no longer require the clicker to perform the appropriate action. Operant Conditioning is when behavior is modified based on rewards and punishments.

 

Clicker

Photo courtesy of Petco

 

We can tell you right away, that altho’ mommy believes most actions taken by animals, both of the two legged variety and the four legged, are somewhat a result of Operant Conditioning; it is in NO way a form of training she approves of. The reason for that is the necessity of a Punishment for incorrect behavior. For Operant Conditioning to truly work, there must be the risk of punishment. And as you know, mommy doesn’t like the idea of punishing us. Mommy says there’s a huge difference between Positive Reinforcement Discipline and Punishment. So, that’s our thoughts on Operant Conditioning. Now, what about that Clicker Training? 

 

 Dezi pats Raena on head

Operant Conditioning in action. Altho’ we’re not fighting,

sis Dezi is letting me know, she’s had enough.

 

As we mentioned in a previous post, the idea of Clickers was still very new when mommy began training. She looked into them and found at that time, they were quite costly. While preparing for this post, we looked again, and found they still cost a little more than mommy would pay. And then of course, there’s the treats. When using a clicker, you have to have that tasty reward waiting. If you would prefer to use the clicker method but don’t have the money to buy one, you can always use your fingers to snap, or your mouth to make a click sound. Just don’t forget to do it as soon as the appropriate behavior has occurred, followed by a treat. Also keep in mind, that anytime you use treats during training, meals should be adjusted to account for the extra calories. You don’t want training to result in an overweight kitty or doggy. Because of cost, having to carry treats all the time, and the fact that most of the things we do for mommy occur when she’s not exactly dressed, we’re not fans of Clicker Training either. That being said, it is a great tool if that’s the method you want to use. 

 

 Raena with silvervine on cat tree

Enjoying some silvervine after a training session.

 

So, our thoughts are pretty simple. Clicker Training is a great method for dogs and can be successful with cats as well. But, it’s not a method mommy chooses for numerous reasons. And altho’ we’re probably all acting a bit due to Operant Conditioning, it is NOT a method of training mommy likes or recommends. Please, Do Not Punish your cat or dog, especially during training.

 

 Dezi eats treat atop cat tree

And sissy gets treats even when it’s mine’s training session.

 

Well, I’s sure hope we answered awnty Layla’s question. As most of ya’ know, mommy’s purrfured method of training is the Love Rewards method. It works, needs no extra props and can be successfully used for both cats and dogs. Remember, ifin you have any questions, purrlease leave them in the comments or send us an email. And ifin you missed any posts in this series, click the links below.

 

Till the next time…………………………………..Be Blest!!!

 

 

 

Luvs and Hugs and Kitty Kisses

 

RaenaBelle and Deztinee 

 

Service Cats

 

What to Look For      Training Foundations      Train Kitty To Massage

Smelling Disease      Do You Need One      Who Bears the Cost

Housing Laws & Exceptions      Accommodations & Common Sense

When the Handler Dies      Proper Training Methods Pt. 1 & Pt. 2

Easiest Task to Train      Getting Kitty Ready for an Outing

Discipline: Stop Countersurfing Kitty      Internal Disputes

Calling Emergency Help      Just What Is Kitty Capable of

Shad: Original Service Cat      Harness, Vest, Leash or Stroller

Dezi, the Wheelchair & Chest      Round and Round We Go

Tumble & Fall Response      Raena Calls for Help

The Rest of the Story     Raena & the Wheelchair Pt. 1 Pt. 2 Pt. 3 Pt. 4

When to Train      Explaining Rewards & Kitty’s Feelings

Stop Kitty’s Begging     Calling For Help Options Pt. 1

Medicating Kitty

Training the Pig Headed, Stallion Strong, Submissive Pup & Conniving Cat

Cats Love Training & Social Media Downfalls

Reintegrating the Scared or Bullied Cat      There’s No Bully Cat Breed

Going for a Walk When in a Wheelchair     Calming the Tiger Pt.1 Pt. 2 Pt. 3

Surviving A Remodel      Taming A Feral Cat

Designer Cats & Scent      DNA Doesn’t Change     Fighting or Porsturing

Service Cats: Proper Training Methods

Well here we are, another Miserable Monday. Da end of da weekend and da start of peeps goin’ back to work. We had sun fur da furst time in days yesfurday, but woke up to gray skies and dense fog today. Da weather just doesn’t know what it wants to do. Anyways, today is also Service Cat educational posty day. We didn’t get any questions after last weeks posty, so we’re not sure ifin ya’ll are losin’ innerest in these posts or not. So, ifin ya’ could let us know in da comments, we’d ‘purreciate it. As with all our educational postys, da following will be written in human English. Ifin you’ve missed any post, you can ketch up by clickin’ da linkys below.

 Dezi cocks head to the side in thought

Service Cats: What to Look For

Service Cats: Training Foundations 

Service Cats: How to Train Kitty to Massage Without Claws

Service Cats: Smelling Disease 

Service Cats: Do You Need One 

Service Cats: Who Bears the Cost

Service Cats: Housing Laws and Exceptions 

Service Cats: Accommodations and Common Sense 

Service Cats: What Happens When the Handler Dies 

We were asked a few posts back to talk about proper training methods. Training is something we think all animals, not just Service Animals can benefit from. We’ve all seen the totally out of control doggy and the doing as it pleases kitty. Unfortunately behavioral problems account for a large percentage of animals taken to shelters; and some of those behaviors could be changed with just a little training and patience. In our Training Foundations post we covered the beginning process mommy chooses to use.

 Raena laying on perch

 You’s have mines full attention mommy.

There are several acceptable methods of training. If your cat doesn’t respond to one, try another. Hitting, yelling and chasing your kitty Does Not work. Neither does drenching them with water from a water bottle or water gun. Clicker training is probably the best known method these days. It involves a small clicker that the trainer holds and clicks as the animal does what is asked for, followed by a treat. This method is very successful in dog training. Dogs are generally ruled by their tummy and will perform for a treat.

Clicker training can be successful with some cats. Mommy has never used this method per se’, but she does sometimes use a form of it. Long ago when mommy decided to start training Service Kitties she looked in to a clicker. We don’t know the cost these days, but back then it was pretty pricey, and mommy couldn’t afford it. She was already training kitties successfully so she couldn’t justify the cost. However, you can use a finger snap to mimic a clicker. Mommy usually snaps her fingers to get us to pay attention. She doesn’t however follow it up with a treat.  

 Raena playing with Petafe cheese and mouse toy

 What’s dat mommy? Did you need somethin’?

Treat rewards are the biggest problem mommy has with clicker training. Cats aren’t generally ruled by their tummies and a lot of cats don’t like treats. And too many treats means kitty won’t eat their meal, or they will, and then gain weight and become obese. Positive reinforcement is crucial to train any animal to perform a specific task. Mommy uses praise and love as our reward. It’s not fattening, and it means we will repeat the task even when we don’t get a treat, which would be impossible for her first thing in the morning. Something you may not know, is that most of the handlers of those Service dogs have to carry treats with them to reward the dog off and on throughout the day.

But what about training kitty NOT to do something, such as climb your curtains, stay off the kitchen counters or scratch your brand new leather sofa? Remember, hitting, screaming, chasing or drenching them with water Does Not work. Mommy says the water bottle has it’s place, but if you’re soaking kitty and he/she is still doing the inappropriate behavior, then it obviously isn’t working. And truly, you don’t want kitty to develop a fear of water. Let’s say you’ve ruled out any health issues for kittys’ behavior. Your next step is to offer an appropriate alternative.

Raena sits pose while playing Who me? I’s would never climb da curtains or

jump on da counters.

Let’s talk about inappropriate scratching. All scratchers are not created equal, and not every cat likes the same surface. There are vertical, horizontal and hanging scratchers. Watch kitty to see if he/she has a preference. There are many different textures as well, corrugated cardboard, carpet, sisal and wood. Again, your cat probably has a preference for one of these textures. It may take some time to figure out which, but once you do, you can successfully offer kitty an appropriate scratching surface. The best option would be to have several scratchers of different textures available, as well as vertical and horizontal. Always make sure the scratcher is the right size for your kitty and that it is stable. You can also make a scratcher for your kitty by covering a surface with their favorite material, especially if it’s leather. Place said scratcher next to the area kitty’s scratching and the next time kitty scratches, move him/her over to the new scratching surface and place their paws on it. Initially it might be helpful to take kittys’ paws and mimic scratching on the new surface, as this encourages kitty. And a little catnip on the new scratcher never hurt any kitty either. You must be repetitive in order to stop the offensive behavior completely.

 Dezi lays on cardboard scratcher

Dezi uses sisal scratcher

Raena lays on scratcher

Mommy says that you must speak with a firm tone when training, but Never react in anger. And if there are several people in a household, all parties must be on the training bandwagon. Especially for correcting inappropriate behavior. Now let’s talk a minute about that water bottle so many cat peeps have on hand. And yes, mommy has one too. Here’s mommys’ list of reasons to use the water bottle:

  • To break up a Cat Fight

  • To stop a fight you see coming on by distracting kitties

 Dezi sits on bench

Mommy says NEVER aim the water stream directly at kitty, especially not the head area. Depending on the proximity you are from kitty and where you hit them, kitty could actually be injured. (Mommy has seen some really powerful water bottles and water guns in the market) Instead, spray a few inches above kitty or in between kitties. Mommy says that clapping, snapping fingers, or a shaker can will also work. Again, don’t do this right in kittys’ ears. A clap from across the room is more than sufficient to get kittys’ attention. Whichever action you take, you should include a firm NO at the same time. Mommy always includes our name. She says that doing so makes sure there’s no mistaking who she’s correcting and what behavior is objectionable. There’s a lot of “No Raena’s” going on around here right now.

 Dezi bathing on top of the Liberty cat tree

 Me’s gonna get a quick bath in befur a nap.

Well, me’s just realized this is a really long posty, so me’s gonna wrap it up now and try to get a nap befur Raena starts in again. She’d put dat battery bunny to shame she has so much energy. Anyways, hope you all have a pawsum day.

Till da next time…………………………………..Be Blest!!!

Luv and Hugs and Kitty Kisses

Deztinee and RaenaBelle    

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