What is Clicker Training?
July 27, 2015 Leave a Comment
Many people assume that clicker training is a different method of training. What is clicker training? It is training based on “marking” the good behavior with a click. When training our puppies and dogs, we would say “good” or “yes” for the proper behavior. When using the clicker training method, the dog’s behavior would be marked by a click instead of your voice.
Clicker training is based on operant conditioning. Okay so the next question is what is operant conditioning. The traditional explanation can be found at Wikipedia, but to simplify things it is modifying behavior through positive and negative reinforcement and/or punishment.
Clicker Training does not need to involve punishment, we have evolved a long way in dog training, and punishment is not necessary.
Karen Pryor is one of the most well-known people in clicker training circles today. She started teaching what is known as “clicker training” that is used today back in the early 90’s.
Clicker training is not only used to train dogs, but cats, dolphins, horses, and the list can go on and on.
Actually, clicker training can make things easier for people training their puppies and dogs. One of the most important things is when you “mark” the good behavior with a click, the sound is always the same and quickly becomes recognized by your pet.
When teaching a dog training class, I would tell pet parents to make sure they kept an uplifting high-pitched, happy tone to their voice when they would “mark” the good behavior by saying “yes” or “good”. When you do this with a clicker instead of your voice, the sound is always the same.
What happens if you have a very deep voice, just how high-pitched can you get? Clickers solve that problem. When clicker training, your dog will actually begin to learn that he/she wants that “click” sound.
It’s also helpful in situations where you have adopted a dog, and you don’t necessarily know what kind of treatment he/she had before. What if the sound of a male or female voice sets off a bad memory? The clicker sound is neutral. Clicker training is also a great tool that can help in modifying aggressive or reactive dog behaviors.
It is always important to “mark” the behavior the instant the dog completes it. A click and a treat, it makes that task so much easier, once you have the hang of it. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with voice training, it’s perfectly fine. Clicker training is another option that is a lot of fun.
Clicker training allows you to mark and treat for good behavior. If the behavior is not reached there is no need for punishment, you simply would not click and treat. You just try the behavior again.
Clicker training helps you to train your dog not just the basics (sit, down, stay, etc.), but you can teach your dog some really fun tricks too. It just takes a little time and effort to train your dog, and they can get you a soda from the refrigerator.
It is so much fun to train your dog to do tricks with clicker training. You are spending time with your dog, which helps build a great relationship. You are keeping your dog mentally stimulated. These things help to have a happier dog and a happier you.
I’ve included this video “An Introduction to Clicker Training” so you can see how easy it is, and if it is something you would like to add to your training toolbox.
A clicker is a tool used with training, and it is great for training a dog for more complex behaviors like rollover. It is also great for teaching them tricks, because you can break them down step-by-step.
This breaking down of the steps to a behavior or trick is called shaping.
The other thing clickers are a great tool for is capturing. Capturing is when dogs do an proper behavior on their own. You click and treat the moment you see your dog doing the behavior you want.
Capturing is one of the easiest ways to train your dog. You see your dog sit; click, treat, and say the word sit. By adding the word, they begin to associate it with the behavior as well as looking for that wonderful sound of the clicker. It is best to work on capturing one behavior at a time. Select what behavior you are looking to capture. Have your clicker and treats ready, then you just wait till they do the behavior on they’re own.
So you can see, clicker training is so versatile that it is a method of training you really want to consider.
If you are interested in getting started right away, Karen Pryor has written an excellent book on Amazon to teach you how to clicker train your dog titled – Getting Started: Clicker Training for Dogs.
Once you and your dog have the basics of clicker training down, you can move on to teaching them tricks. This is when it really gets fun. There is an excellent book titled, 101 Dog Tricks: Step by Step Activities to Engage, Challenge, and Bond with Your Dog. It’s a number one best seller with over 700 reviews.
One important thing to remember is you need a clicker. While I have used many clickers, I will tell you that you need to have one that is comfortable in your hand, and you need to be able to use at a moments notice. Be sure to check out the different ones available at your favorite pet store, and find the right fit for your training needs.
I would like to tell you about a clicker tool I just found called Clicker Plus. It’s a clicker RING, how easy and convenient is that. It’s on your finger so you have it all the time.
If you would like to know more about clicker training or have any questions just drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until Next Time
Suzanne Dean, ABCDT
ABC Certified Dog Trainer
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