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Become an expert: tips about clicker training in dogs!

dog-learning-with-clicker advice
© Shutterstock

A clicker is a very efficient instrument that can help you train dogs. In this article, you will learn the foundations of clicker training in dogs

By Daniel Mar

There is a lot of controversy regarding the functioning of the clicker. It is not uncommon to find various dog trainers starting an argument about the relative effectiveness of "clicker training in dogs" compared to "marker training". After years of debate, neither side was able to come up with a smoking gun to put the debate to bed. Fortunately, the scientific community came into evidence that can finally answer the question and settle this debate.

What is clicker training in dogs?

For those of you who are not all that familiar with clicker training in dogs, the first thing you must know is that it is quite simple. A clicker is a little plastic toy that makes a clicking sound.

Its functioning is easy to grasp: the dog learns that every time he hears the clicking sound, a treat is coming immediately after. Based on this, the dog feels the urge to ‘behave in a certain way’ so that his pet parent sounds that click. When the dog understands this, he learns which behaviours are required of him. In the end, clicker training in dogs is very straightforward: your dog gets the behaviour; you mark that behaviour (with a click); then you reward the behaviour. The more your dog gets rewarded for a specific behaviour, the stronger that behaviour becomes.

Furthermore, clicker training in dogs is rooted in science. Clicker training was originally created by marine mammal trainers. They had to use some sort of positive reinforcement method to train the animals. Their task was particularly difficult since marine animals that didn’t feel drawn to practice could simply swim away! That is why the clicker is a bridge. It shows your dog that whatever he is doing at the time he hears the click is correct and he is entitled to reward.

So how would you use clicker training with your dog?

Picture this: you are training your dog to lie down on cue, however, your dog tends to quickly pop back up into a stand the moment his elbows hit the floor. It is nearly impossible to deliver a reward fast enough for him to connect the behaviour with that reward! That is when you use a clicker!

For example: the moment his elbows hit the floor, you can quickly click and then reward him. No matter how fast it happens so long you click the proper behaviour, he knows what he is being rewarded for. In time, your dog will learn, so it is advisable to start delaying your click. This way, your dog will begin to understand better. This means that he will connect the click to staying down instead of just lying down for a moment. It is crucial that you modify your clicker training in dogs so that your pet understand which position can earn him a reward!

How to start clicker training in dogs?

clicker training in dogs How to start? ©Shutterstock

Before you begin clicker training in dogs, you have to add ‘power of persuasion’ to the clicker! At first, a click doesn’t mean anything to your dog. That is why you have to imprint value to the click. This step is very simple and highly important!

You should count out 10 small treats. Proceed to click and feed a treat, then click again and feed a treat again. Continue to do so until you have used all 10 treats. After ten attempts, you can feel positive and sure that the click has power. Now when you click, your dog will be expecting a treat!

Start simple

When starting to use clicker training in dogs, it is best to start with something simple that your dog is already familiar with. For example, sitting down. Ask your dog to sit, click as your dog touches the floor, and then deliver your reward. Just like in previous examples, make your dog understand what will earn him a reward. Afterwards, there are other behaviours that you can try like ‘leave it’, ‘kiss’, ‘shake’ and ‘stay’. Then, you move onto harder training like ‘hide and seek’!

Clicker training in dogs is very simple! But don’t forget! After every click, you have to feed a reward!