What is Clicker Training? 5 simple tips for successful dog training

Published by , 6th November 2016 in Dog Training

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What is Clicker training?

Those of you new to dog training may be surprised to find how many varied ways there are to train your dog. One of the cooler and simple methods is clicker training. Clicker training is a queue association method for teaching your dog anything from tricks to avoiding bad behavior. It involves, as some of you may have guessed, the utilization of a small hand-held clicking device to make a short noise your dog is supposed to associate with certain actions or to just pay attention to you.  Although it may seem overly simple or a little silly, it is actually a proven effective method.

5 simple tips for successful clicker training your dog

1. Clicker Training is based on science

You may have heard of Pavlov’s Dog, though for those of us who missed psychology class here is a quick refresher: Ivan Pavlov was a physiologist who experimented on animal behavior. One of his most famous experiments involved training his dog to expect food by ringing a bell before giving it to her. Although bells and food have no natural relation to each other, his dog associated the sound of the bell with the imminent delivery of her food.  The same principal works with other aspects of training, however, not just when it’s feeding time. Because the science proves that animals learn by association, we can use almost any noise associated with the desired action to train our dog to obey commands, stop an action, or just pay attention.

2. Use the clicker in addition to the command

A clicker is a fantastic tool, but it is certainly not the only thing you need in order to complete training. Can you imagine having a different clicker with a unique noise, each for a different command you wanted to teach your dog? You don’t need that. The clicker is designed to let your dog know: “I’m giving you a command right now, pay attention.” When using a clicker for training, you first use the clicker once, then give the verbal command. After he completes the command, you click again. Eventually, you will no longer need to get your dogs attention because he will be paying more attention to your words.

3. The clicker is associated with a reward

A clicker is used both before a command is given, as well as after it is successfully completed. The reason for the second click is another form of association. By clicking, then giving a reward, you train your dog to associate the click with the reward. This reinforces the desire to pay attention when you give the first click because after all, you are about to give him a treat. The clicker does not replace the reward. Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool in dog training and a great way to encourage wanted behavior.

4. Any sound will do

Clickers are typically small plastic or metal doo-dads that are small enough to be used as a keychain, so they are really convenient to carry around. However, it doesn’t have to be a clicking sound you use for the association. Any short, quick noise will work to get your dogs attention and train him to prepare for a command. A quick clap, a short whistle, even a unique sound from your smartphone will do the trick. The objective is simply consistency. As long as the sound is relatively unique and isn’t obnoxious or frightening, you will be successful in using it as an associative sound.

5. Don’t over-do it

Clicker training is a simple introductory method. Continual use of the clicker tends to develop dependence for both you and the dog. Once he has a good track record of following the proceeding command, you should begin weaning off the clicker to see if he will begin listening to the command without it. Continue giving him treats to reinforce the behavior, though.

Conclusion

Given the tips above, someone new to dog training should find it considerably easier to get their dog to pay attention and follow it up with a successful command. It’s an incredibly effective tool when used properly, so follow these helpful hints and you will have no trouble incorporating it into your regular training routine.

Happy training!