Clicker training is one of the dog training techniques that is used by many dog owners and trainers. Just as with every training technique, dog clicker training has its pros and cons.
AT A GLANCE (SEE ON AMAZON):
What is Clicker Training?
Clicker training is a type of operant conditioning, which simply means, your dog gets a response for good behavior.
Clickers are small handheld devices, used by an animal or dog trainer, that make a small click noise every time you push a button.
Along with treats, your dog will come to mark the clicking noise with a positive response. This is what they now term as the click and treat method. Using a clicker will eventually result in your dog showing the desired behavior.
This type of training has been used by dog trainers in various areas of training. Some people have used this too on other animals. Many dolphin trainers teach dolphins the same way with an underwater whistle to train them to do tricks.
Due to the click and treat marker, your dog would learn the exact behavior with the reward.
Clicker Training and Positive Reinforcement
If you are working to use positive reinforcement in your training process, getting and using a clicker may be a great way to teach your dog good behaviors.
In positive reinforcement training, you teach your dog some behaviors or tricks through a conditioned reinforcer such as the use of a reward.
Dog trainers have been using clickers to teach various desirable behaviors. Even new dog owners have also resorted to the use of this device, along with a reward like a dog treat or dog toy, every time they need to inculcate something in their dogs like a desired behavior.
How do I start Clicker Training with my Dog?
If you want your dog to learn new behaviors and new tricks, get a clicker now and start to cue with a click.
But, first things first…
Prepare the treats.
When you first begin clicker training, make sure you have a supply of your pup’s favorite treats. Start in a quiet area where your dog can focus and can easily hear the click. Get things out of the way to create a good start for you and your pet.
With the clicker on one hand and a treat on your other hand, start to cue by touching the button on your clicker to produce a click. Then, reward your dog with a treat. Repeat this click and treat step 10 times so that your dog will begin to mark the click with something they love, like a yummy treat.
If your dogs already know some basic commands, you may also want to use the clicker for a behavior you want them to portray. Get your dog to sit. The moment they obey your cue to sit, touch, and press the clicker. The click should mark the desired behavior and reward them with a treat. Repeat the whole process — cue, click, reward. Eventually, it should mark the lesson in your dog that obedience gets him a reward.
Try it with distractions.
Next, try distracting your dog with a toy or something else like movement. Then, click the clicker.
If your dog looks at your hand for a treat, they have already learned that the click means reward.
If your dog does not turn towards you or your hand, go back to a distraction-free zone and reward their attention with a treat.
Then, once they consistently look to you when hearing the clicking sound, begin to use the clicker for basic dog commands and other desired behaviors.
As an example, you can ask your dog to sit. The instant your dog sits, touch the button on the device to sound the click and reward them with a treat. Try this step with various commands such as “shake” and “down.” It is important to press the clicker the moment they obey and then give your dog a treat. This will help your dog to understand what action resulted in a reward.
Advance to more complex training.
Finally, you can move on to more advanced training using the clicker. You can use the clicker to reinforce correct leash behavior, potty training, or politely greeting guests. Be sure to always click right after the desired behavior, followed by a treat.
When your dog starts to exhibit the behavior you want him to, you could also reward him with something better like a walk in the park or more playtime outdoors. Just always remember that, for every good behavior, treat your pet with something he loves.
Important Things to Remember
Does clicker training really work?
With all forms of dog training, you need to be consistent, patient, and positive. When you first start to use a clicker with your dogs, be sure to work on one skill at a time while your dogs get used to the routine. You would not want them to be confused, would you?
It is also important that you deliver the treat within 3 seconds of pressing the clicker to help your dog make a positive association. Giving the reward after some time would not work as a positive reinforcement for your dogs.
What if Clicker Training doesn’t seem to Work?
It is possible that clicker training may not be the best fit for your dog. If your dog has a low food drive and doesn’t tend to be motivated by rewards, the use of a clicker may be ineffective.
You also want to ensure that you are providing your dog with verbal praise along with the reward, every time you make the click sound. This will also help in times when you may have the clicker handy but not treats.
Clicker training could not be working to improve our dog’s behavior the way we wanted it to because of something we fail to do. You might have failed to touch the button the moment your dogs exhibit the proper behavior. It is very important for successful clicker training that you make the click the exact moment they do the positive behavior and then reward your dog.
If you are not consistently clicking at the exact moment, your dog may get confused. This will make clicker training ineffective for your dog.
If you have been using the clicker for some time, you will likely begin to use treats interminably. If it seems your dog will only respond to you if they see the treat, begin to hide the treats so your dog doesn’t know you have any nearby.
Then, when they do the desired behavior, click the clicker, and quickly retrieve a treat. They can then begin to realize it is important to listen to your command even if they aren’t sure a treat is nearby.
Where do I get a Clicker?
Getting started with clicker training entails buying a clicker first. One of the biggest perks of clicker training is that it is a low-cost option. Getting a new clicker does not cost too much and it is always a worthy investment.
Where can I buy a clicker?
You can find clickers at local pet stores such as PetsMart and Petco.
Amazon.com also sells a variety of clickers to choose from. Most clickers, if not all, are small that you can always easily grasp in your hand. Many of the clickers like this one have a wrist strap to make it easy for you to carry anywhere.
You can also find training kits that include a clicker and other positive reinforcement tools on Amazon.com. These kits will provide you with a clicker, a guide book on getting started with your dog training, and a variety of other items such as a dog whistle or water bowl. Many of these kits will also come along with a pouch to carry treats every time you use your clicker.
There are many resources available for you online to help walk you through the steps of clicker training. You can go to YouTube.com and search for “Clicker Train Your Dog” and find many videos such as this one to help show you how to use a clicker.
There are also books you may want to purchase to give you a more in-depth look at clicker training for your dog. Peggy Tillman has a book entitled Clicking With Your Dog that will give you a step-by-step guide in pictures. This book, like others, will help you strengthen your bond with your dog over time while using a clicker in positive reinforcement training.
If you plan on hiring a dog trainer, there might be no need for you to purchase a clicker as every trainer is sure to have his own training tools. But if you want to pursue behavior training yourself, getting a clicker and a reward (dog treats) is a necessity.
Clicker training has been proven to be one of the most effective ways to help in training your dog while building a trusting and loving relationship.
Using a clicker, along with a reward, will help to strengthen every training process. This technique helps you send a clear message to your dog about what behavior you want to see from them.
Enjoy trying the clicker with your dog! It’s time for some click and treats!