Many people believe that the best training can only be provided by professional dog trainers. Well I’m here to tell you right now that this cannot be further from the truth.
Adept dog trainers can certainly assist pet owners who do not have free time to train their pets at home. But if you have five to ten minutes to spare every day, then you can effectively train your pet. If you only have time for short training sessions, then the best option for you as a pet owner/trainer would be clicker training.
Clicker training defined
Clicker training is a method of teaching a dog to associate the sound of a click with a target action. A single click helps the dog associate the action that you want it to remember, with the treat or reward that you will be giving it after the click.
Clicker training is a form of operant conditioning wherein the animal is taught to perform an action because it yields a reward. An animal is taught a particular sequence, which allows it to differentiate between rewarding behavior and non-rewarding behavior.
Unlike classical conditioning, which often relies on verbal cues and hands-on intervention during training sessions, clicker training is unique because it relies on capturing target behaviors, and reinforcing these behaviors with rewards.
Clicker training your dog
The first thing that you should do when you are clicker training your dog is to perform the loading, or initializing, procedure. This procedure is necessary because it will help the animal associate the sound of the click with the reward that you are going to give it. You can perform the loading procedure anywhere; as long as you have the clicker and the treats with you, you can succeed.
This process is really quite simple – click, and give the treat. Each click has to grab the animal’s attention. If the dog was not paying attention at all to what you were doing, repeat until it raises its head in attention. When the dog starts paying attention to each click, reward it immediately. Most dogs create a concrete association between the click and the reward after 20 to 50 successful cycles.
We call them cycles because we aim for consistency during clicker training. Consistency can be achieved by timing the clicks. You can click every five seconds or every ten seconds, whichever works. You only need to click once per cycle. Do not overuse the clicker. Clicking multiple times will not help the animal understand the lesson at all.
When a series of clicks is used, the animal actually stops responding, because it waits for the clicking to stop before responding. The same principle applies when you are trying to teach your dog verbal signals. Don’t say “sit, sit, sit” when you want to teach your dog to sit, because the dog will become accustomed to waiting for three “sit” commands before performing anything. If a single word does not yield the desired action, simply repeat the command once and see what happens.