Dog clicker training is an excellent form of obedient training that relies heavily on using positive reinforcement. It’s a simple, effective, and fun approach to dog training that uses a clicker.
The clicker consists of a metal strip housed within a small plastic device that makes a sharp and distinct “click” sound when clicked. The click comes much faster than saying “good boy/girl” and gives a much better result than training with just using treats. To let your dog understand what the click means, give it a treat immediately after clicking. Once your dog learned the rewarding effects of the click sound, the clicker itself was already a conditioned reinforcer.
Training your dog to respond to the clicker isn’t hard. Once the responses are consistent, you can proceed to basic-level and, subsequently, to advanced-level training or complicated tricks. Using a step-by-step training approach is quite often referred to as “loading” or “charging” the clicker.
Link Dog Clicker Training to Rewards
Clicker training is not to replace the use of treats. The dog clicker gives a consistent, audible response to your dog’s positive action. The “click” sound instantly signals the dog that it’s earning a reward for the action that it has performed. Always give a treat after each click to reinforce this. Otherwise, the clicker will be ineffective. It’s very significant to use strong reinforcement a lot during initial training, and treats are just about the most potent form of reward for a dog.
“Operant conditioning” or sometimes referred to as “instrumental conditioning” is the basis in which the clicker training lies. It’s a learning approach that uses, respectively, rewards and punishments for positive and negative actions. Positive reinforcement is part of operant conditioning used in dog training. Since it’s carried out using treats, have them in small bite sizes that your dog enjoys. For a simple, low-budget choice, use small pieces of unseasoned cooked meat during the training.
However, if your dog doesn’t like eating much or doesn’t respond to food treats much, clicker training will be ineffective since it is about treat and reward.
Begin in a quiet setting
Begin the training with your dog in a quiet area with little or no distractions. To be more effective, start the dog training before your dog has its usual meal – when it’s hungry. Have a fistful of your dog’s favorite treats ready and the clicker in your other hand.
Introducing the clicker
Before you begin the training, introduce the clicker to your dog. Having a treat in one hand and the clicker in the other, click the clicker once and give your dog the treat immediately.
Repeat this a couple of times so that your dog soon learns to associate the click with a treat. Once the association is ingrained, the click should start to get the attention of your dog.
Testing your dog
When your dog is being distracted, click the clicker to draw its attention. It is to test if using the clicker is a success. If your dog responds to the click by turning its head to you and looking for a treat, then you’re ready to proceed to the next stage. Otherwise, persist with the click-treat exercise until your dog learns that each click means a treat.
Teaching your dog basic-level commands
Use the clicker to teach your dog basic-level commands. Focus on the action you want your dog to do, for instance, sit. As soon as your dog sits, immediately click and give it a treat.
If you didn’t click at the right time, your dog will get confused and not know which action gathered the treat. One important point to note on the use of the clicker is the “right-timing.” Over time, your dog will realize the connection between command, action, click, and treat. Not only does your dog learn better what it’s doing right, but this also makes it more likely to repeat the right action when commanded next time.
Include verbal commands
Start including verbal commands, such as sit, stay, etc. – to command your dog, then click, and give a treat each time. Repeat the exercise a few times.
After your dog has learned this command, progress to only click and treat your dog when it does an action on your vocal command. Don’t click and treat if your dog does any action without your command.
Proceeding to advanced commands
Clicker training can also be useful for advanced command training. All you need to do is click on baby steps toward your dog’s action and work its way toward its final action. You don’t have to guide your dog into position, which can quite often slow down the training process.
For more advanced commands using clicker training dogs, you’ll need very timely hand-eye coordination and focused on clicking the clicker at the exact time following each action. It is to ensure that you don’t confuse your dog.
If you want to create an obedience training program for your dog, incorporate the use of a clicker and judge for yourself the effectiveness of the program. All in all, a clicker device is very useful in the training process.
Don’t ignore your dog’s emotional feelings
A common issue in dog clicker training is forgetting to praise after giving the treat. After your dog has responded to the click and its treat, it’s also expecting to receive your praise. Remember that dogs have normal emotions such as joy, anger, fear, disgust, praise, and love. So, don’t ignore your dog’s need for praise, affection, and love from you.
Phasing out the click and treat approach
When your dog does an action on your command each time, you can begin phasing out the click and treat approach. According to many dog trainers, the use of impactful vocal words, such as “good” and “yes”, can replace the clicker as you take your dog out of it.
Top 5 tips for successful dog clicker training
1. Timing is of the essence. Your dog must know the action that garners the reward. Click only on the correct action and give a treat immediately after that.
2. Reward each time. During the initial stages of training, give a treat after each click, including any unintentional clicks.
3. Keep the treats in bite sizes. Clicker training for dogs requires a lot of treats. Keep them bite sizes so as not to spoil your dog’s appetite when it comes to the main meal or even gaining weight.
4. To finish on the right note. Training needs efforts from both you and your dog, though it comes with lots of fun. Always finished the training session on the right note – following through the sequence of the correct action, a click, a treat, and lots of praise.
5. Phasing out the clicker. Be mindful that a dog-training clicker is just for training new actions. As soon as your dog responds to your verbal command alone, it’s time to phase out the clicker-treat approach.
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