What is Clicker Training?
Clicker training is a reward based system of training typically used for domesticated animals, especially dogs, but this form of training can also be used with cats, horses, birds and any other animal that can be motivated by rewards.
There are many benefits to clicker training…
The main benefit is that you can do it almost anywhere, whether you are in your home or out and about, and it is extremely effective.
Origins of Clicker Training
The idea behind clicker training comes out of traditional psychology.
The concept is very simple: positive reinforcement of behavior that is desired increases the likelihood of that behavior choice occurring more often.
This is officially called Operant Conditioning, and is often used with not only dogs, but cats, birds and horses. Actually, Operant Conditioning has worked successfully on over 140 species.
The click of the clicker typically becomes the positive reinforcement, but many other sounds could be used as long as they are pleasant to the animal and are consistent in sound.
When you were a child, you got a gold star for doing something good. Your clicker is the way you can give a gold star to your dog when he or she does something good like following your commands.
Clicker training is considered new and “cutting edge” for domestic pets because the normal form of training up until recently has often involved negative reinforcement to deter bad behavior, such as yelling at a dog for jumping up on someone or forcing their face to smell excrement when the dog has gone to the bathroom in the house.
This is not nearly as effective as clicker training.
Saying “good dog” for good behavior is a good form of reinforcement, but even saying “good dog” for good behavior can be hard for the dog to interpret because your tone and volume can vary substantially enough that he or she is not clear that you approve of their behavior.
The wonderful thing about a clicker is that the “click” sound is consistent.
This consistency is the key is to make the click sound the reward… the gold star for you dog.
Clicker Training – Simple Enough for a Human to Use!
I like to think of clicker training as training for humans to communicate better with dogs (or any other animal that understands rewards).
If you are to learn clicker training, understand that it is quite easy but it does take a bit of patience.
Another key to clicker training is that the behavior or trick you are teaching to your dog must be broken down into simple steps.
Your dog wants to understand you and please you. He or she always does his best and, of course, wants to get rewarded.
When dogs struggle with a command, it often means that the command has not communicated what is desired.
When that happens, it means that the behavior must be broken down further into something your dog can grasp.
Eventually, when the simple steps have been mastered, you can put them together and train your dog to do them all at once with one command.
Clicker training reinforces the mini-steps to the overall goal.
You must be willing to go through those steps with your dog. You must be willing to be patient with your dog.
But don’t worry, most of the time it’s a lot of fun for both you and your canine.
And if you’ve started with other forms of training your dog, such as with a vibration or shock collar, which is a negative reinforcement type of training, you can always successfully switch over to clicker training.
Your dog will still respond very well to clicker training. In fact, he or she might respond better because he/she will be glad to done with negative reinforcement. Wouldn’t you be?
And while clicker training is ideal for puppies, it can also work very well with older dogs, even if they have never been trained.
Old dogs CAN learn new tricks with clicker training!