When it comes to dog obedience, clicker training is still a relatively new training tool but is quickly gaining popularity as more and more professional trainers see the benefits. Clicker training can improve your dog’s health, activity and attitude and generally make him more contented.
What Is Clicker Training?
Clicker training is the popular term for a science-based system called ‘operant conditioning’. In short, it is a method which relies upon giving positive reinforcement and a marker signal to build a new behaviour.
The first to develop and expand the clicker technique were dolphin trainers but now all sorts of ‘untrainable’ animals are being taught to respond to the clicker – even cats.
The reason for its success is that it is a rewards based training method that animals respond well to. Animals don’t enjoy being yanked, prodded, whipped or shouted at and old-fashioned training methods are often counter-productive. Focusing on positive reinforcement makes the training experience a whole lot more pleasurable for both man and beast and can significantly accelerate training time.
How To Get Started
There are two requirements for clicker training: some kind of desirable reward (usually food) and some kind of marker to signal that the desired action is performed. To make sure your pet doesn’t get fat, you can set aside a portion of his daily kibble ration as training treats. As for the clicker, you can buy a specialist clicker from any good pet store for just a few dollars or you could make do with the click of a ball point pen or even use a whistle.
Next, you go into a quiet room with your dog and ‘charge up your clicker’ by letting your dog smell the treats and then simultaneously clicking and tossing or giving the dog a treat. Do this half a dozen times until you have really got your dog’s attention.
Then it’s a question of watching him and giving a click the instant he performs a desired behaviour – for example, he may sit or lie down and look at you expectantly. Timing is vital. The click must happen as the action takes place and the reward must be given immediately afterwards. This is exactly how dogs learn in nature.
Don’t make the session too long – five minutes is plenty – and focus on just one desired behaviour in a session.
Introducing Basic Cues
Once your dog has become familiar with the clicker, you can begin to introduce training cues so that the dog learns to respond in a certain way when you want it to, not just by accident.
Watch carefully for desired behaviours. For example as soon as you see your dog beginning to sit or lie down, give a hand signal, or the command ‘sit’ or ‘down’, immediately click, during the action, and then treat.
Or to teach recall, take every opportunity throughout the day to call your dog to you by his name and adding the cue – “Billie, come” – and as soon as your dog starts moving towards you, click and then treat as soon as he arrives at your feet.
Each time you get the sequence to occur – you ask your dog to come, he comes, you click during the action and then treat – the more powerful that cue will become. The clicker adds an extra powerful dimension to the learning process.
You can discover more about dog obedience and clicker training at www.thedogtrainingclub.com.
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Filed Under: General Dog Training