Clicker Training For Dogs – Positive Reinforcement On Steroids
What is Clicker Training?
Clicker Training is easily the most effective and kindest animal training technique around. it was first used in the 1960's and 1970's by dolphin trainers and is now commonly used at aquariums and zoos all around the world to train marine mammals, and other zoo animals. Within the last 10 years or so, Clicker Training has attained huge popularity with all kinds of animal trainers - and not only for dogs.
How are clicker training and marker training different?
Clicker training and marker training work in the same way, the only real distinction is that a clicker uses a small mechanical device to make a sound whereas a marker uses a specific word which you choose.(among the most frequently used ones are "click", "yes", "free", etc.). You would use that word rather than clicking. You can use any word you like, but it should be short and not be able to be confused with any other word.
Clicker training is an extension of positive reinforcement training. This is where you reward your dog for displaying the behaviour you want. One of the problems with positive reinforcement training is that, if there is a slight delay between the dog offering the behaviour and receiving the reward, he finds it difficult to understand exactly what he is being rewarded for. The clicker “marks” the behaviour. The clicker is sounded as soon as the dog displays the behaviour. He then gets the reward.
How does clicker training work?
The first step is to get the dog to associate the clicker and the reward. The clicker should become a signal that a reward is on the way.
It normally just requires a couple of attempts before the dog will begin to connect the behavior with the sound of the clicker. And once they have made this association, as soon as they hear the click, they will repeat the behavior in expectation of getting a treat.
Clicker training does not begin with simply clicking and hoping the dog will repeat a behavior. Firstly, your must teach your dog to connect the click with a treat. This part of the training is known as conditioning,
There is no need to point the clicker at the dog when you click. In fact, do not move your hands at all. You must be sure that the dog is responding to the sound of the click, not the movement of your hands.
An Example Of Using Clicker Training.
Following several repetitions, the dog will learn that the click indicates he's about to receive a reward. He learns that the click is not an instruction or a cue but simply a signal that a reward is on the way.
You may be trying to train your dog to move to the sitting position. He performs the task but by the time he receives the reward he is doing something else. He could just be moving his head to the left. If he receives his reward now, he may think he is being rewarded for the head movement rather than sitting. By using a click at the precise time, he performs the desired action there will be no doubt what he has done right. You have already conditioned him to understand that a click means he has done the right thing and a treat is on the way.
The key to success with any type of training is consistency. Get all your family members involved and make sure they are all using the same process. Do not confuse your dog.
Clicker training can be used to train for almost any desired behaviour. As with all dog training, you should be prepared to go back and repeat any steps if necessary.