What Is A Clicker And How Is It Used To Train A Dog?

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Aug 072011
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Training a dog is probably the most common use for clicker. You can train your hamster if you really want to but I think you may need to Google that one some more! Clicker training is an effective, safe and fun way of training your dog. The important word there was FUN; for both you and your dog. Using clicker reinforces good behaviour instead of punishing bad behaviour, which wouldn’t be much fun for you or your dog.

The beauty of clicker is that your dog will enjoy it and be actively encouraged to replicate an action or behaviour in order to earn their reward.

Much of what a dog learns is through repetition and clicker training uses repetition as part of its method. Learning how to train your dog with a clicker is actually quite easy, with a bit of practice.

How Does Dog Clicker Training Work?

‘Clicker training’ is:

an operant conditioning method for training an animal using a clicker, or small mechanical noisemaker, as a marker for behaviour. The method uses positive reinforcement – it is reward based.

What Is A Clicker?

Dog Clicker TrainingSo, what does a dog clicker do? A clicker is usually a small plastic fob housing a strip of metal. When the fob is pressed or squeezed it makes a distinctive audible click, which your dog will be able to hear. Most clickers will make one click on pressing then another click on release. So, the user can make a very definite ‘click click’ noise. This double click will be the ‘marker’ that your dog will recognise when he or she has performed the desired behaviour.

How To Use A Clicker For Dog Training

Whilst your dog would not normally respond to a click on its own the trainer links this audible marker to a treat or reward. The marker (conditioned reinforcement) will then be associated with the reward (primary reinforcement) and this conditions your dog to want to respond to the clicker noise. After using a click to tell your dog they have performed the required action they will intentionally want to repeat that action, resulting in a desired consequence – their reward. Their reward can be either a food treat or their favourite toy. Food is usually what gets your dog working best! There is a very good recipe for liver cake here. Your dog will love it!

By clicker training your dog you can have them do all sorts of things. Like many others though, I prefer to train my dog for obedience rather than tricks or entertainment. For example, it may be best practice to have your dog sit at your side facing forward when they are called back to you, sitting quietly while you serve their food. Or, you may need your dog to find and fetch items for you if you are disabled. Whichever you desire, dog clicker training could be right for you. Of course there are numerous other methods to explore but clicker is by far one of the most effective.

Why Use A Noise At All?

If you don’t click, your dog may not associate their reward with the desired behaviour. Or worse still they may associate their reward with an undesired behaviour. By using a click it marks the exact time your dog did something, allowing them to associate that action with the reward that follows. The click could be referred to as an ‘event marker’.

Clicker Training The Sit CommandThe click itself is a unique and distinctive noise that sounds like no other. Voices can be confusing and words may not be spoken as quickly as a click is made. In time you will eventually replace the click with a hand signal or voice command. You won’t want o carry a clicker around with you every where will you?

It is important to know the timing of when to click. It is not as effective if you wait until after your dog has sat to click and reward. Something may happen immediately after they sit that is then associated with the reward, rather than their sitting action. The key time to click your dog’s behaviour is exactly when they begin to move after being given the command.

The most popular command that new dog owners like to teach is the sit command. This is such an easy command to teach a dog and once they ‘get it’ and can consistently sit every time, they will seem like a different dog!

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