Clicker Dog Training Tips
Clicker dog training is an alternative method of teaching your dog by using positive reinforcement. This form of training relies on a sound to provide immediate reinforcement for a desired action. It can be used for all breeds as well as hunting dogs.
To begin clicker dog training, you do need the right tools:
The clicker – this is a small device you can hold between your fingers. When you press the clicker, it makes a distinct sound. That sound can be heard clearly by your dog and by you.
The treats – although the sound is an important part of clicker dog training, the treats show your dog he did a good job. They also motivate him to work.
Once you have the right tools, you should begin with some simple training so your dog will associate the click sound with something positive, such as the tasty treat.
Here are the three steps to effective clicker dog training using the “Sit” command:
- Give the “Sit” command. If your dog does not sit immediately, hold a treat over his nose and move it back towards his tail slowly. His nose will follow until he ends up sitting.
- Mark the behavior. As soon as your dog’s bottom hits the floor, click the clicker (known as marking the behavior).
The click must occur immediately. Timing is critical.
- Praise and reward. Once the dog hears the click, give him the treat and praise him for a job well done.
During this process, you simply repeat those steps until the dog does the action on cue every time.
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Weaning Your Dog from Positive Reinforcement
You don’t want to become dependent on your clicker or on your treats, however. The time may come when you need your dog to “Sit” or “Stay” but you lack both of these tools. If your dog has not been weaned from them, he may not respond to your command.
To wean your dog away from the training tools, follow these steps:
Stop giving treats after each desired action. Keep marking the action but only give a treat every other time. Gradually increase the number of times the dog does what you want before getting a treat.
Slowly, he will stop expecting the treat but will continue doing the desired action on command. Repeat the process but reduce the frequency of using the clicker.
The idea is that using the clicker should help your dog learn something new. Once that action has been learned, it should be continued for other rewards. For example, the dog may need to “Sit” in order to be petted by guests or before eating his food.
Some Clicker Dog Training Disadvantages
While many trainers swear by the clicker, there are some disadvantages to consider.
1. Possible confusion – If you are training with other people who also use clickers, the dog may not recognize his “click” from someone else’s.
2. Low noise – The click is not meant to be very loud. One complaint is that it may not be loud enough to work with dogs in some environments or when dogs may be further from you, such as when you are training hunting dogs.
Despite these disadvantages, clicker dog training is worth considering. Just remember to use whatever method you select consistently.