What is Clicker Training?
Clicker Training is an animal training method based on behavior psychology that relies on marking desirable behavior and rewarding it. – Karen Pryor
Clicker training uses reward based methods to increase desirable behaviors. When your dog offers a behavior you mark that behavior with a click, then reward your dog. Rewards are most often food, but can be a ball, a toy, praise, petting, car rides – whatever it is your dog finds rewarding! Training becomes as simple as 3 steps:
Why use a clicker and not just a word?
A clicker is a distinct sound that is unlike anything in your dog’s world. Dogs hear our voices constantly, but not a “click”. The click is like a camera – it captures the precise moment your dog does the correct behavior. It is very clear to your dog that the click means “Yes! That’s what I want. Here is your reward.”
Another key reason for using a clicker is that the timing of the click is instant, precise and clear. For example: When your dog sits you can mark that behavior immediately as it happens. If you use only verbal praise or treats, by the time you say “Good Dog” or lean to give your dog the treat, he could have sat, followed by a leap toward you, it isn’t 100% clear to them what got the reward – the sit or the leap?
With a clicker you can train subtle behaviors: ear twitching, wagging tails, small foot movements, the list goes on and on. Training becomes fun and rewarding for both you and your dog!
How do you get the desired behavior?
There are 3 ways to get a behavior.
Once you have the behavior, immediately click and reward. After a few rewards your dog will start to understand why you are rewarding him and he will begin to offer that behavior. When he is reliably offering a behavior you can begin to add the ‘cue’. Behaviors that are rewarded will be repeated! Remember to keep your sessions short, fun and positive – Always leave your dog wanting more!
How does this create a “thinking dog”?
Dogs that have been clicker trained will begin to work with a purpose, rather than by habit. They will start to perform behaviors to get a desired effect – the click and reward. Clicker trained dogs are enthusiastic to learn and try new behaviors since their experiences have been pleasurable. Clicker trained dogs learn behaviors quicker. This is because the communication between owner and dog is clear every time and because the dog is aware of what they are doing during the learning process.
Clicker training can be used to teach everything from a sit to an entire agility course. Your dog learns to think for himself so you don’t need to constantly tell him what to do. Shaping games are a great way to pass the time on a rainy winter day when you can’t get to the beach. The more you click, the more fun it is – not only for your dog, but also for you!