There are so many people that are still confused about “Clicker” training but the answer is very simple.
Clicker training has been around for about 40 years and was originally developed to train marine mammals how to perform all those amazing behaviors that we all know and love. You cannot repromand a dolphin for doing something wrong but you can provide them with information when they have done something that you like by marking it (clicker) and then rewarding it.
Clicker training opens up a line of communication between the animal and its handler because it provides instant “feed back” of when the correct behavior has occured.
By “Marking” the instant the correct behavior occurs, you are giving your dog the information it needs to be successful!
The clicker therefore is a “Reward Marker” – that is the correct behavior “click” and a treat or reward is on its way, its that simple.
The sequence goes like this: Get the behavior, mark the behavior, reward the behavior.
Sample: The dog sits, you mark (click) & reward the behavior – soon you will find the dog will be offering you the sit. Once they are consistantly doing this, Name or Cue the behavior “sit” – click, reward, once they are sitting on cue, the clicker & treats can be faded out.
Don’t forget your praise and petting – once the behavior is learnt, the clicker goes away until you want to train something else and they will be rewarded by your praise and petting.
The main thing to remember here and a lot of people fall into the same trap! Fade out your treats don’t just STOP them! If you intermittently reward the behaviors you have taught, they don’t know from where or when the reward will come so they are more likely to do the behavior asked “Just in case” this time it will be the time it is rewarded.
Clicker training also creats a “Thinking Dog” – what can I do to get you to “click” that thing so I can get more rewards? Use it to your advantage! They WILL start throwing behaviors at you! Think of it as your childhood “Hot & Cold” game – give your dog feedback! If they are in the cold zone, either ignore the behavior or use a NON REWARD marker “Ooops” and they will try something else.
When first training a new exercise, you should be “clicking” and rewarding about every 2-3 seconds!
Clicker training is a lovely way to train your dog, because there is no room for punishment, it develops loyalty, trust & develops an extremly strong bond between you and your companion.
Just before I go, a little bit about REWARDS! It doesn’t HAVE to be food! Although there are a lot of food motivated dogs, some are NOT and it is only a reward if it is rewarding for the dog! It can be anything that the dog likes and is willing to work hard to get! Playtime with a favorite toy, a good ear scratch, a belly rub but keep these types of reward session short or you will be spending more time giving the reward than you are training the exercise!
Over the next few weeks I will be posting more specific exercises but for now, if you are “Clicking” and rewarding the behaviors that your dog is doing that you like, you will have a more attentive companion that is easier to live with!