When it comes to training your dog, there are a variety of different methods from which to choose. Most animal behaviorists agree, however, that positive reinforcement-based training methods are the way to go. These training methods involve rewarding your dog for good behavior to encourage him to repeat that behavior. The alternative is punishment-based training, which involves punishing your dog for bad behavior. One of the most popular methods of positive reinforcement-based training is clicker training. Here you will learn the basics about this training method and receive tips for getting started.
What is Clicker Training?
Clicker training utilizes the theory of operant conditioning, in which dogs are trained to correlate a specific consequence with a specific behavior. For example, you might use clicker training to teach your dog that coming when you call his name will result in praise and reward. By teaching your dog to associate a positive consequence with a certain behavior you will encourage the dog to repeat that behavior in the future.
Where clicker training comes into play is in helping the dog to identify the behavior in question. If your dog does not know what behavior you are asking him to perform, he will become confused or frustrated and your training will be ineffective. During training sessions, you will use the clicker immediately after the dog performs the desired behavior to help him make the connection between the behavior and the reward.
Tips for Getting Started with Clicker Training
After obtaining a clicker from a pet shop, you can use clicker training to teach your dog just about anything. The key is to use the clicker immediately after your dog performs the desired behavior and then give him the reward so he connects the two.
Before you actually start to use the clicker for training, you may want to take a few days to get your dog used to it and to help him form a positive association with the clicker. Throughout the day, call your dog to you and hold a treat in one hand with the clicker in the other. Click the clicker then immediately open your other hand and give your dog the treat. Go back to ignoring your dog for a little bit, then repeat the sequence until your dog starts to give you his attention as soon as you click the clicker.
To show you how to use clicker training effectively, take the example below that tells you how to use the clicker in teaching your dog to sit:
- Kneel in front of your dog with the clicker in one hand and a small treat pinched in the fingers of your other hand.
- Hold the treat in front of your dog’s nose but do not let him eat it.
- Give your dog the “Sit” command in a firm, clear voice then move the treat forward toward the back of his head.
- Your dog will lift his nose to follow the treat and, in doing so, his bottom will lower to the ground.
- As soon as your pet’s bottom touches the ground, click the clicker once and offer him the treat.
- Repeat this sequence several times until your dog consistently responds to the “Sit” command.
Once your dog identifies the behavior you want him to perform, you should start to phase out the clicker. If you keep using it, your dog may become dependent on it to perform the desired behavior. In most cases, your dog will get the hang of the training sequence in just a few repetitions as long as you pair the click with the desired behavior so he can easily identify it.