Dog clicker training is undoubtedly one of the most reliable methods of training a new pet dog. Beyond obedience, the clicker is an effective tool for pre-conditioning and reinforcing positive behavior in your dog.
Clicker training derives from the precepts of behavioral psychology which marks and rewards desirable behavior. It’s an excellent method in animal training as the distinct clicking sound serves as a communication tool – it tells your dog exactly when you like what he’s doing. As opposed to the use of punishment, dog clicker training’s click-and-reward principle works to encourage positive behavior by rewarding it right away. When you start to clicker-train your dog, remember to:
1. Practice and time your clicks before working with your dog. It is important that you learn to click at the precise moment your dog heeds your command. When your click is ahead or behind the precise moment of obedience, your dog’s association of the sound with the behavior could be confused.
2. Click when he’s doing it. Clicking should be done while your dog is doing as commanded, not before or after. This is important in order to communicate exactly what the treat – that follows the click – is for. Timing the clicks is very important.
3. Be consistent with the number of clicks. Click only once to mark the behavior. Don’t overdo it. If you like what your dog is doing so much you want to let him know you’re delighted, give him more treats but stick to one click. Consistency is as important as timing.
4. Less is always more. Keep your training sessions no more than five minutes at a time. You can do several five-minute clicker training sessions in a day. This is more productive than hour-long daily sessions as the repetitiveness of routines bore intelligent dogs.
5. Clicking for small steps is an encouragement. When you’re ordering your dog to sit, click as he starts to bend to the position. When you want him to respond to, “Come!” click as he takes a few steps toward you. When you’re dog learns to associate the sound with your approval, he’ll know when he’s on the right track.
6. Don’t get mad holding a clicker. When you’re mad, you’re likely to scold or jerk your dog’s leash. Be sure not to use or have your dog see/hear clicking. Dogs can sense your mood. If you confuse the clicker with scolding or correction, he’ll lose confidence in the clicker.
7. By all means, carry the clicker in your pocket. Click for voluntary or good behavior. When your dog cocks his head to one side (imitating the human pose for listening), click. When it sits still when a guest arrives instead of barking incessantly, click. Marking good behavior with a click as it happens is excellent reinforcement and won’t confuse your dog.
Training with a Clicker
Dog clicker training is a wonderful experience for both owner and pet. As your dog learns to understand you, you also grow toward understanding your dog. Often, the clicker is useful in gauging your dog’s abilities and reaching their potential by constantly striving for more. If you find yourself not progressing on a certain behavior, it’s likely that your clicks are ill-timed.