Used correctly, a clicker is an invaluable teaching and communication tool that not only improves training of your dog, but will also give you an insight into how your dog learns.
The clicker is used to provide a clear and consistent REWARD sound to the dog, allowing multiple handlers to be involved in training the same animal much easier. It’s amazing to see how quickly a young dog can grow using this wonderful teaching tool.
It’s also refreshing to see an older or a rescue dog enjoying itself, gelling with its new owner and responding to a new training technique with a contented look. What is Clicker Training?
Clicker training is type of instrumental or operant conditioning; this means that a dog offers a voluntary (it has control over) activity that results in a reward.
It is a highly successful training technique first used in the training of horses and marine mammals. Karen Pryor is one of the founders of this method and thanks to her it has developed an increasing fan base throughout dog training sports.
Clicker training uses a consistent clicking noise to signal ‘well done’ to the dog. It marks an exact moment or behaviour like taking a photograph.
The clicker becomes a conditioned reinforcer that the dog learns signals that the primary reinforcer (food) will soon follow.
With time the sound of the clicker becomes reward itself.
The clicker is a small plastic button or box which makes a consistent clicking noise. The image below shows an i-click button clicker. This is the style provided on Bronze Courses by Little Orchard.
Some simple rules that will help whilst clicker training:
Never click near your dogs head – It can cause the dog to fear the noise.
It is very important to make your timing accurate and to always give your dog a treat after you have clicked. Don’t lie with the clicker.
Only click once for each behaviour. As you start to progress with training, you can ask for more effort to earn a click, at the end click and reward once.
Always take a break after 5 to 10 minutes of training, clicker training is very stimulating and hard mental work for your dogs.
Do not reduce the treat value too quickly as this will prevent your dog from working so well.
When teaching a new behaviour it is okay to reward good attempts – if the behaviour is close to the expected or required task then rewarding it will encourage the dog to repeat its attempt, which increases the chances of the full behaviour being learnt correctly – think of it as giving a nudge in the right direction or a cue to the end requirement.
Once the task has been learnt then ask for 2 or 3 repetitions before click and treating.
It’s important to still praise and handle your dog. Once you click you should praise, smooth, cuddle your dog then food or toy reward. Otherwise if all training is hands off the dog doesn’t enjoy physical praise
Your dog should be allowed to move away and think about things, do not pressure your dog to stay on the spot, let them think about the required task.
Do not use the clicker to gain your dog’s attention, and ensure no handlers click the clicker when not training the dog.
It is a good idea to use a start and end word to let your dog know when learning sessions begin and end, often the clicker signals the start
Make it a fun learning experience for you and your dog!
Don’t nag your dog; the clicker takes away the need for lots of fuzzy words that cause undue frustration and anxiety during training.
If ever you feel tired, upset, stressed or angry it’s far better to choose another time. Clicker training requires patience, calm handling, having fun and reading yourself and your dog