What Is Clicker Dog Training

what is clicker dog training
Photo Credit: Dog Toys, flickr.com

Clicker dog training is also known as mark or reward and it is a method of reinforcing positive behaviors in pets especially dogs. The clicker is used at the exact time that positive action is registered. The click is always to be followed by a reward.

What is A Clicker?

This is a device that makes a unique click sound whenever it is pressed. Dogs need to be trained with a sound that won’t be altered at any given time. The clicker is used to create this sound and it remains the same unlike marker words made with human voices.

Also, it is created to make dog training convenient instead of constantly snapping the fingers or whistling.

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Steps to Be Taken Before Starting the Clicker Dog Training

The purpose of using a clicker in the training of dogs is to get the dog to associate a specific sound to a reward. In this case, click sounds that are generated using a clicker.

Some people that are already making use of marker words can continue to use them together with the click. This helps the dog to transit easily from the marker words to the clicker sound.

However, there are some important tips that should be considered before making use of clickers in dog training:

Have Some Treats Handy

Dog training treats come in a lot of varieties but the best treats to use for your dog are his favorites. It is therefore important to try several varieties of treats before starting the training to find out those treats that he likes.

The use of his favorite treats will make the dog put extra effort to get rewards.

Dog training treats should be small, easy-to-chew and tasty. A large or chewy treat will take up most of the training time and make it boring.

It is also advisable to switch up treats sometimes. This way, the training time will be interesting, and the rewards offered will be unpredictable.

Food leftovers should not be used as treats.

Charge or Load the Clicker

This video explains how to charge a clicker.

The clicker is charged by teaching the dog to relate the clicker sound with treats. At first, the clicker will mean nothing to your dog until a treat begins to come after it.

There is no behavior to be reinforced now. Just click until the dog begins to recognize the sound, then give it a treat. It is best to give treats when the dog is not engaging in an unwanted behavior to avoid reinforcing it with the treat.

Once the dog starts to expect a treat when the clicker makes a sound, then it is time to introduce the training.

Be Time Conscious

When the clicker is bought, practice with it first before introducing it to the dog. Try hitting targets and clicking the moment the thrown object touches the target. Repeat until the clicker sound can be heard as soon as the target is hit.

Timing is important in dog training because if there is a delay between positive behavior and a click, the dog cannot tell why the reward is given.

Some dog behavior can be short-lived and if there is a delay in the clicking, it might reinforce a negative action that followed the positive action.

Click when the action is happening not when it is done. This will help the dog to realize what causes a click and bring rewards.

It is always better to keep the training period as brief as possible so that the dog does get bored and worn out. Therefore, the faster the click and reward are done, the shorter the training session becomes.

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Clicker Dog Training

Training a dog through positive reinforcement is part of the various training methods used by dog parents. In this method, the dog is rewarded once a positive behavior takes place.

When training a dog to obey a command, a clicker is used to let the dog know that the command has been carried out. It is better than other methods because it is timely and can be used when the dog does something good at a distance.

Even though the rewards might take a little longer, the dog is aware of the action that is bringing the reward. He will likely try it again for more rewards.

Follow up most of the clicks with a reward so it the clicker doesn’t lose its effectiveness. These are the activities that the trainer should engage in to train a dog successfully:

Begin the Training in A Quiet Environment

Training should be introduced in a quiet environment where there is no distraction. Carry some treats in a waist bag or any holder that will contain enough treats to last through the session. Taking time out to get more treats might break the dog’s concentration and shorten the training session.

The clicker should also be worn at the wrist if possible. If it is too loud, muffle the sound with a cloth for the first use and later take it off when the dog gets used to it.

Start by pressing the clicker and giving the dog a treat. This is called the charging or loading of the clicker. This can be repeated several times until the dog begins to expect a treat after the click sound.

Take a break and allow the dog to wander off, then click again. If the dog returns for a treat, then the charging is complete.

Start with An Established Positive Behavior

When introducing a clicker to a dog, it is best to start off from behavior they are familiar with or already exhibiting. This is going to help in the total charging of the clicker.

Start with an easy command like sit, touch, come and lift-a-foot. Don’t wait till it does the perfect action before clicking. If the dog begins to make the right moves towards obeying a command, make a click and give a treat.

It is important to note that the clicker should not be used to call a dog or look for their attention. It is strictly to establish and reward good behavior only.

If the action taken by the dog is exciting to you, do not click more than once rather increase the number of treats.

Do not command, pull or force a dog to obey a cue or command. It may be because he hasn’t learned the behavior yet or is not sure if it is a good behavior too.

Make Training Progressive

As training progresses, try to make getting treats harder to achieve. Progress from rewarding the process to rewarding the real action.

If the dog is rewarded initially for raising a paw towards a target, start rewarding only when the target is touched.

If that is established, then progress to rewarding the dog by locating the target in a different location and so on.

If you get angry, stop the training and put the clicker away. Don’t jerk the dog’s leash, scream at or correct the dog using a clicker.

If the dog is taking a long time to establish a behavior, it might be due to wrong clicking time. You can seek assistance and have someone click for you or you can practice more on your timing accuracy.

The frequency of using the clicker should keep decreasing as the shaping continues. This will keep the effectiveness of the clicker intact and to avoid overfeeding the dog with treats.

Practice in Different Locations

The dog should be taught to maintain good behavior in different places with varying noise levels and distractions.

If training was initiated in a quiet environment, it is always difficult for the dog to concentrate fully in a noisy environment or around strangers.

It is, therefore, a good idea to reduce the criteria for a reward when the training changes and work your way up.

Constantly changing the training environment is as important as changing the treats used for training. It makes the training more interesting and unpredictable for the dog.

Mix up commands too and practice different combinations in a quiet place first before heading to a noisy environment.

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