Clicker Training Explained
Clicker Training is an animal training method based on behavioural psychology that relies on marking desirable behaviour and rewarding it.
Desirable behaviour is usually marked by using a “clicker,” a mechanical device that makes a short, distinct “click” sound which tells the animal exactly when they’re doing the right thing. This clear form of communication, combined with positive reinforcement, is an effective, safe and humane way to teach any animal any behaviour that it is physically and mentally capable of doing.
Priming the Clicker
First you will need to “warm-up” the clicker. In order for clicker training to work, the dog needs to associate the clicker with something good. To achieve this you need to work in a quiet place with you, your dog, the clicker and some favourite treats. Stand in front of your dog and “click” the clicker, then deliver the treat to your dog. Click again and deliver the treat. Continue with click and treat, click and treat and very soon (sometimes within two or three clicks), the dog will associate the sound of the click with something it likes: the reward. Since it wishes to repeat that pleasurable experience, it will repeat the action it was doing when it heard the click.
How Does Clicker Training Work
The dog trainer clicks at the moment the behaviour occurs: the dog raises its paw, the dog trainer clicks simultaneously. The dog sits, the trainer clicks, the dog lies down, the trainer clicks. Clicking is like taking a picture of the behaviour the trainer wishes to reinforce. After “taking the picture,” the trainer gives the animal something it likes, usually a small piece of food but sometimes play, petting, or other rewards.
Any behaviour can be trained with any animal following these three simple steps:
- Get the behaviour.
- Mark the behaviour with a “click”.
- Reinforce the behaviour with something the dog likes.
Benefits of Clicker Training
The essential difference between clicker training and other reward-based training is that the dog is told exactly which behaviour earned it a reward. This information is communicated with a distinct and unique sound, a click, which occurs at the same time as the desired behaviour. The reward follows. A click is more powerful for training than a spoken word because it is not a sound heard by the dog in other circumstances. It means one thing only: a reward is coming because of what you did when you heard the click. It can be produced instantly and at the exact moment a behaviour occurs. Even a very quick and subtle behaviour, the twitch of an ear for example, can be clicked.
Unlike our voices, which can say the same word in different ways, and so express different emotions or meanings each time, the click sounds the same every time it is heard; its meaning never varies. Humans are highly verbal creatures, but our dogs are not. It can be difficult for them to pick out a single word from the stream of meaningless words they hear us speak every day. The click’s meaning, however, is always clear. It is always directed at the dog and it is always good news. Clicker training can be a rewarding and bonding experience for both owner and dog.
To follow up or make an appointment or find out more information about Ringwood Dogs, Ashley Heath on the Hampshire and Dorset border, please contact Isabelle Adams-Papé by clicking on the Contact Me tab.
I look forward to meeting you and working with your dogs.
Happy dog training.