Clicker Training! Clicker Training! Clicker Training!!
I KEEP BEING TOLD TO CLICKER TRAIN MY DOG BUT I DON'T REALLY UNDERSTAND IT.
You are not alone! Or maybe you sort of understand it but its not quite working out? Let me help you out!
The first thing to remember, and the most common mistake made, is that the clicker is not the reward.
The click from the clicker is a marker for the correct behaviour.
The click lets the dog know that he's done the right thing and that his pay out is coming. This combines clear communication with positive reinforcement which is scientifically proven to be an effective, safe and humane method of teaching any animal, any behaviour.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
A clicker is an “event marker.” By clicking at the exact moment the dog offers the behaviour we are looking for, we are able to communicate effectively. A click tells the dog “Yes! I like that!” and is also a promise that something good is on its way. Most often we use food for this, but not always. Your reinforcement can be anything the dog values.
Think of it like a photograph. You are capturing an exact moment that you like. Or like the winning buzzer on a game show.
Studies and research shows us that dogs, like people, will repeat a behaviour which is rewarded.
HOW DO I CLICKER TRAIN MY DOG?
The first thing you have to do is teach your dog what the click means. Right now it is just a noise and means absolutely nothing to your dog. you have to build that positive association with the clicker.
How do you do this? That is really easy! This first step we call 'Loading The Clicker' . Here's how :
First you need to decide on your reinforcement. Use whatever it is that motivates your dog. Most commonly we use food because of ease and speed of delivery but you can use toys, verbal praise... Literally whatever motivates the individual dog in front of you.
Next, gather up your reinforcer, your clicker and your dog!
Then you simply click and immediately reinforce.
Next... Repeat, repeat, repeat until the dog has built that positive connection. Once he hears the click and is expecting the pay out , then you are ready to move on.
It's important to get your timing right. You want to click the very moment the behaviour which you want repeated happens.
You can practice this by throwing a tennis ball off a wall then clicking the moment it bounces on the ground again. (but don't have your dog around while you practice. He should only hear that click if there is going to be a pay out)
Once your feeling confident with your timing then gather up your dog again and begin marking and reinforcing behaviours which he already knows. For example sit. Then, like everything else, repeat, repeat, repeat. This will teach your dog that when he does the right thing he hears a click, and then gets something great!
From here you can use your clicker training for teaching anything your heart desires. Not only can it be used for teaching basic handling and cool tricks, but it is an extremely useful tool during behaviour modification.
DO I HAVE TO USE A CLICKER??
Nope!! You can use any noise or word you want to, so long as you are consistent. Often the verbal marker "Yes" is used. With deaf dogs you can use the flash of a torch.
Clickers are most effective because of that consistency in sound (your voice will alter slightly each time you give the marker) and the delivery of the click is far quicker and more precise. And the better your timing, the better response you will get.
Clickers can also be more beneficial for a dog with multiple handlers or nervous handlers because again it brings us back to consistency, each handler will have a different tone and pitch of marker whilst a clicker remains fluent and a clear form of communication without conveying extra information which carries over in the sound of your voice.