Using the clicker for training purposes- an overview
Training your dog can sometimes be a fairly daunting task, depending on the breed, age, and even the unique personality of your dog. While some are fast learners, others can be notoriously distracted and very slow at learning the basic rules of discipline. Regardless of which category your dog falls in, you will be well served by clicker dog training, a tried and tested method that is used by many professional dog trainers who successfully train dogs for dog shows and other events, where discipline is paramount. Below, we will give you a quick overview of clicker training as well as show you how to use it to train your dog. We will then briefly discuss the common misconceptions that are associated with using a clicker for dog training purposes. Understanding the concept of dog training with a clicker
The clicker training concept was engineered by two psychology students who were trying to study animal behavior. The clicker is merely used as a tool that is able to convey a message to the dog- that he has done something positive or worth rewarding his efforts for. Usually, you would use treats to reward a dog. With clicker training, you will still initially have to use treats, although you can gradually.
How to use a clicker to train your dog?
You can buy a clicker at any pet store. They are often inexpensive and provide you with great value for money as a training tool. Once you have a clicker, try to teach your dog to learn or do something. As an example, let us assume that you are trying to teach him to sit using the “Sit” command. It may take him a short period for him to sit. Even when that’s achieved, only half the battle is won. The real challenge is making your dog understand you want him to sit every time you say “Sit”. This is where a clicker becomes extremely handy. The first time your dog listens to you and sits down, use the clicker first and then reward your dog with a small treat. Once you do this a few times, your dog will begin to associate the clicking sound as something positive- that a treat is on its way. He will also understand that he needs to pay attention to you, anticipating the “clicks”. You can test this by trying to use the clicker when your dog is not paying attention to you. If, for example, he is busy foraging in some bushes and suddenly turns around in response to the sound of the clicker, you know that you have made a certain connection between the clicking and behavior deemed appropriate. If he doesn’t turn your way when you use the clicker, you must assume that you still haven’t made the connection between the clicking noise and signs of positive reinforcement.
Important things to remember while using a clicker:
Timing is everything. Have it in your hand and use it immediately when your dog does what you want it to do. If you are fumbling and fidgeting in your pocket to find the clicker and then click after a few seconds, you will have the dog confused why the clicker is being used. The same goes for the treat as well. Once you have used the clicker, the treat should follow suit quite quickly, at least in the initial stages. During more advanced stages, you can try to slowly do away with the treat to only using the clicker.
The process of using the clicker before rewarding your dog is called “Charging” or “Loading”. It is very important that you always use the clicker first and then hand out the treat, and not the other way around. The clicker can be used to train dogs of any age, although it is recommended that a dog be at least 8 weeks old before you begin any kind of formal training. When using the clicker, it is also important for you to use a good verbal reward. Say something like “Good dog” just after you use the clicker and before you hand out the treat. That way, you have three different ways to tell your dog that you are happy with its behavior. The clicker training method is initially effective when used with a hungry dog, since treats will be used.
Do you always need to use a treat with a clicker?
One common misconception associated with clicker dog training is that the trainer will always have to use treats, which would essentially make the clicker a useless tool. However, this is not true. Many professionals who train dogs use the clicker for the early stages– while simultaneously using treats. As time goes along, they will slowly sacrifice the treats and only use the clicker sound to reinforce positive behavior. Of course, it would be difficult to lay down a general rule of thumb regarding the time it will take to go from treats and the clicker to only the clicker, while the transformation will usually occur in a reasonable time frame. When you have managed to get your dog to understand that the clicking sound is a way of expressing your appreciation, you must also remember to periodically give him treats, to maintain the association between the clicker and positive reinforcement.
Won’t clicker training make my dog fat?
Clicker training, when done right, won’t make your dog fat. You need to use small sized treats to reward your dog. A treat that is as small as hard candy is often enough to make this technique worthwhile. When in training mode, you can even reward your dog every three seconds, with a click followed by a mini bite-sized treat. Though it might sound excessive to hand out a treat every three seconds, you must remember you can dramatically reduce this number after the initial stages by simply using the clicker to substitute the treat. If you are super careful about your dog’s diet, just set aside a small portion of his diet in the form of treats that you can use for training.
Can I use clicker training to teach my dog complex commands?
The above passages mention how you can use a clicker to make your dog understand he”ll be rewarded for small tasks like sitting, giving a high five, or for rolling over. The clicker training technique can also be used for complex tricks. All you have to do is break up the complex trick into smaller parts and reward each of the smaller parts with a click (as and when the dog performs the specified parts). This process is referred to as “Molding” or “Shaping“.
Using a clicker to train your dog to stop digging holes in the yard
Here’s an example of “Molding”- when you see your dog digging up unwanted holes, walk up to him with your clicker and some treats. Use a verbal command such as “No”, “Stop” or something similar. When he stops, you must immediately use the clicker and then give him a treat to reward him for stopping. Once that is done, you must also try to tell him to go inside the house. Use your usual command like “Go in” or “Home”. When he is about to go, use the clicker again and give him a small treat and send him on his way. When you do this a few times, you will be able to use the clicker to tell your dog to stop digging and also go inside. If you had used the right verbal commands along with your clicker training, you won’t even need the clicker after a point. Just “Stop” and “Go Inside” will be enough to stop your dog from digging and proceed indoors.