Clickers are not the magic pill, nor are they a super remote control that will have your dog performing crazy behaviours just because you click. That said, clickers do provide simple communication between humans and animals; the clicker always sounds the same, therefore always means the same thing to your dog and therefore significantly enhances learning. The click noise marks exactly what your dog is doing at the precise moment you clicked.
Used correctly and accurately, it can capture tiny behaviours or moments in time when your dog is doing exactly what you want. After each click your dog will receive a treat, therefore the click will not only indicate success, but also that a tasty treat is coming.
Clickers are used primarily to teach new behaviours. Once your dog understands the behaviour you are teaching, you can change the click to a verbal or visual cue and maintain the behaviour that way. Clicking enables you to use a “carrot or no carrot” approach, rather than traditional “carrot or stick” methodology. If your dog gets it right he gets a click followed by reinforcement; if he gets it wrong …… nothing happens. The absence of the “stick” or any other form of punishment or correction in training results in a dog with greater confidence who is prepared to try hard without fear of making mistakes.
There are 3 main methods of clicker training to enjoy with your dog:
Lure and Click. Using food, you can lure your dog into position and then click to mark that your dog has performed correctly. After a few repetitions you can fade the lure, but continue to click as your dog repeats the activity.
Capturing. This is useful for communicating to your dog that he is doing something you like. If he is lying calmly at your feet, you may click to reinforce the calm behaviour. Your dog will enjoy getting rewarded for doing nothing (staying calm) and as a consequence is likely to offer the behaviour more often.
Remember reinforced behaviour will occur more often.
Shaping. This is very much like the hot and cold game you may have played when you were younger. You reward your dog for ‘getting warmer’ by completing very small improvements towards the end goal. Your dog will think about, and work out, what it is you are asking him to do in a bid to attain the elusive click and reward. Remember to keep it simple for your dog to achieve success to avoid a loss of interest. With shaping greater progress is made when the improvements you require are small.
Keep Sessions Short. Short sessions are more productive as your dog will struggle to concentrate for long periods. 10 minutes is ideal for most dogs, however you should adjust your timings to suit your dog’s attention!
Treat your best friend….. Dogs love to use their minds and thoroughly enjoy working things out. Providing mental stimulation is as important as providing physical exercise; provide your best friend with the chance to enjoy clicker training on a regular basis and watch his confidence grow.
Together you will have lots of fun!