Curious about clicker dog training? Wondering what it is and how it works? This article is written in order to give basic information about the method, and what it involves. It also discusses frequently offered opposition to the method and debunks certain myths. Find common questions and their answers in the following article:
#1 What is clicker dog training?
Clicker dog training is a training method that employs the use of a small mechanical “clicker” that makes a clear noise when you press it with your thumb. In this method of training, the trainer presses the clicker when the desired behavior is exhibited. There is no punishment used, as this training method is one of positive reinforcement only. Therefore, it is humane as well as very effective in teaching any behavior you desire to teach.
The clicker is used to precisely identify the moment when the behavior is shown, then followed by a small, soft treat. This helps your dog identify exactly what you are looking for. You don’t demonstrate by yanking on his collar or pushing his body around, hoping he’ll understand what you want from him. At first the behavior is always accompanied by a click, then a reward. You then teach your dog a verbal or hand signal to accompany the click, and eventually you phase out the clicking part and just use the command. Because the method is precise and consistent, your dog will learn new behaviors quickly and easily.
It’s also an excellent idea to eventually replace the tasty food treat with praise and games, thereby continuing reinforcement without making your dog dependent on food for reinforcement of the desired behavior. Clicker training can be used to teach your dog basic commands as well as more complicated behaviors such as tricks and multistep actions. And because no punishment is involved, training is fun for both you and your dog!
#2 How does clicker dog training work?
The first thing you, as your dog’s trainer, needs to do is teach him that the click sound is followed by a reward. This is sometimes called “charging” the clicker. It’s simple! Just click the clicker and give your dog a reward as soon as you can possibly give it to him. Although your dog’s rate of learning is an individual thing, it should not take long, and you can usually assume your dog has made the association if he immediately looks at you when you press the clicker.
When training a new behavior, the trainer clicks exactly when the desired behavior is demonstrated. When the dog barks, he hears the click, then immediately is given a reward, such as a small treat (soft is better because it is quickly eaten). After as few as 3 or so clicks, your dog will probably begin to associate the click with the reward and will demonstrate the behavior again. Then you, the trainer, pairs the click with a command (or gesture), and your dog will eventually associate the reward with the command. It’s really just 3 simple steps: watch for the behavior, call attention to it, and reinforce the behavior.
#3 Can clicker training be used on other animals?
Clicker training absolutely can and is used on many other animals. In fact, how do you think those beautiful Sea World creatures learn to do all those amazing tricks? Yes, clicker training for dolphins, orcas, and other sea creatures has been used for many years, as well as for famous animals you see in movies and television shows. Clicker training was first used on dolphins and has even been used to train cats and birds as well as wild animals such as fish, rats and rabbits.
#4 Does the clicker have to be used (forever)?
No, it absolutely does not. As mentioned before, the clicker is primarily a tool used to identify and teach new behaviors. Once the click sound is paired with the command (which is paired with the reward), the clicker is faded out and the command replaces it. The method works so well because your dog actually understands what you want him to do rather than randomly trying behaviors and hoping he’s got it right.
#4 Opposition to clicker training.
These are a few of the common concerns that are expressed about the effectiveness of the clicker training method and the potential difficulties it may present.
- You must always have a clicker with you in order to make your dog do what you want him to do. – As part of the method, you replace the clicker with the command, thereby eliminating the need to have the clicker unless you are training a new behavior.
- My dog will get too fat with clicker training – No, not if you’re careful. You can use part of your dog’s regular portion of food for training, or you can make sure you give tiny parts of treats. You soon can replace those food items with praise, games, or toys.
- My dog is scared of unusual noises and I think she’ll be afraid of a clicker – clickers are very inexpensive and well worth the try. If your dog is really frightened of the noise, start with a click from a pen and work your way toward a louder click (as she associates the reward with the click.
- I want to train my dog in the woods where the click is not loud enough- no problem, you can substitute a louder sound, such as a whistle, or a visual cue such as a light flash in situations where your dog is far away from you.
This article has provided information about clicker dog training and 4 important points to learn about and consider. It shows that clicker training is an effective and easy way to teach your dog new behaviors without punishment or failure. Arm yourself with the tools and knowledge to be a successful partner and trainer to your much loved pet!