Clicker Dog Training
Train your Dog with Positive Reinforcement and Rewards
“With positive reinforcement…if your dog sits, you give him a treat.”
Clicker dog training is based on positive reinforcement which, in turn, is based on simple operant conditioning. When your dog does something you like, you make sure that a pleasant result occurs so he will be likely to repeat it.
With positive reinforcement, for example, if your dog sits, you give him a treat. He will be more likely to sit again because he wants a treat. That's positive reinforcement.
For lots of people, when they think of dog training they think of using a choke chain and yanking and jerking their dog into position. Maybe they think of rolled up newspapers or trying to make themselves "alpha" over their dog. Clicker dog training doesn't do any of those things.
If you want to train your dog with lots of drama, then dog clicker training won't work for you. However, if you want to train your dog with lots of praise and rewards based on positive reinforcement, then clicker training can work for you.
Is Clicker Dog Training Just Positive Reinforcement?
Clicker dog training takes positive reinforement and operant conditioning one step further by adding a marker for the desired behavior. This can make the training easier and faster for your dog (or any other animal you happen to be training).
For instance, when your dog sits, you would click the clicker immediately and then give your dog the treat. Same result, right? Actually, by marking the action which you desire, you are letting the dog know exactly what it is he is doing to earn the treat. If you keep working with your dog with the clicker, your dog will learn that the clicker marks the correct behavior.
Dogs become very good at connecting the clicker with the right behavior so they learn very fast. Dogs also learn to try to get the "click." Just getting the treat isn't enough. They want to get the click to know that they are doing what you want them to do. By using the clicker you can teach your dog to be more and more precise with his responses, too.
Pros and Cons of Clicker Training
Advocates of clicker dog training say it is probably the fastest way to train a dog. There is no punishment or correction in clicker dog training. When your dog gets something wrong you simply ignore the wrong result and try again until your dog gets it right.
Clicker training can be used by anyone to train their dog, of any age, and even by people with physical disabilities. It requires no particular physical strength. Clicker training is a good way to train dogs that have been abused or who have any behavior problems from previous bad training experiences.
Critics claim that clicker dog training relies too much on food-motivation since the clicks are followed up with treats. They say that if you take away or cut back on the treats the dogs cease to obey. They claim that dogs trained with positive reinforcement or clicker training are not reliable under different circumstances.
What Can You Teach Your Dog with Clicker Training?
You can use clicker dog training to teach your dog anything that you would teach him with other training methods. You can teach your dog to sit, stay, lie down, come when called, etc. Teaching your dog to heel can be done with clicker training, as well as teaching many dog tricks.
Training Tips to Remember
The important thing to remember with clicker dog training is to get the timing of your clicks right. You have to use the clicker to click as soon as your dog gives you the behavior you're looking for.
If you click too soon or wait too late your dog won't know why you're clicking or he may think you are giving him approval for something else. You have to click and immediately reward your dog as soon as he does what you want him to do. And, you need to repeat the behavior and clicking again and again. It won't work if your dog only does it once.
Make sure you have plenty of treats for your dog so you can repeat the exercises again and again. However, the treats should be very tiny so your dog won't fill up on them. If your dog fills up quickly on treats he won't be interested in doing any more training.
Think of the treats you give your dog as token treats. Your dog has earned them but they are just tiny tastes before you move on. Tiny hot dog slices or tiny pieces of cheese make good treats, but you can use anything your dog likes as long as you use very small bits. You have to keep your dog interested and eager to keep training.
Don't train when you're in a bad mood. Keep things upbeat. Your dog can sense your moods so keep things cheerful and your dog will be happy to train.
Always remember to end your clicker dog training sessions on a positive note. Even if you have to go back to something easy for your dog, make sure that you end by doing something your dog is happy to do. This way your dog (and you) can stop and feel good about your session.