If you’re just starting to train your pet, you probably have encountered the term “clicker training”. Positive dog training owes much of its success over the years to clicker training, but what is this popular method, and how does it work?
Clicker training is one of the fastest ways to develop a shared language with your dog. Not only is it a rapid way of training your dog, it’s one of the best training methods for fearful or hypersensitive dogs. Basic obedience is important to keep your dog safe, protect him from injuries, and prevent him from getting lost. It’s also a fun way to bond with your dog, give him some exercise, and keep his mind sharp which prevents boredom and unwanted behaviors.
Leon Valley Veterinary Hospital explores this popular training method so you can learn the basics.
Clicker Training 101
You’ve probably heard a clicker in action at the park or elsewhere. Its a device that makes a clicking noise when pushed, and is small enough to comfortably fit in your hand. Dogs don’t intrinsically know what we want, so we have to mark their positive behavior. That’s what the clicker does – it lets the dog know when they’ve done something right.
How To Start Clicker Training
Grab a clicker to get started. Don’t forget to give your dog a nice long walk or a run before you begin any clicker training session, to burn off excess energy and make sure he’s able to concentrate on you.
Minimize distractions – choose a calm and relatively quiet place to start clicker training, so your dog can focus on you.
Be prepared – have your food pouch with training treats ready, and put your dog on a leash.
Clear purpose – have a specific training goal in mind, such as teaching the “down” command. Focus on one objective at a time.
Lure – elicit the behaviors you want. In the “down” command, lure your dog to lie down by holding a treat in your hand down on the floor between his front legs. You’ll find that your dog’s head goes down after the treat, and if you stay there, his body should follow until he’s lying down.
Timing – click as soon as your dog gives you the desired response. Exact timing is important, so be ready. In the “down” command, this would be as soon as your dog’s chest hits the floor.
Reward – the click is a promise to your dog of a food reward. So give a treat every time you click.
Repeat – positive training takes lots of practice! Repeat the click and reward training until your dog is doing the action you want on cue.
Proofing – this is about having your dog follow his training commands even in distracting settings. Once he’s doing well in your living room, move to a more distracting setting. Keep adding distractions (other pets, a ball) until he’s able to perform the command even with other things going on nearby.
Basics – then, add other basic commands to his vocabulary, using the same method above.
Clickers For Training, Not Forever
Does this mean you’ll always have to use a clicker when your dog does a desirable behavior every time for the rest of her life? Not at all. Clicker training is a way to let your dog know that she’s done something right, but eventually you can phase out the clicker and just give the reward. A reward can be a treat, or a “good dog!” or – for some breeds – a ball or toy tossed in the air. Remember not to be too stingy with your rewards, or your dog may gradually lose interest in giving you the responses you want.
If you’re interested in learning more, there are clicker trainers in every community in the United States, so seek one out! If you need more information or have questions, please give us a call.