While there are a variety of training methods that dog owners could consider one of the most effective is known as dog clicker training.
This particular method has actually been used for many years but it continues to gain popularity since it is highly effective and completely safe for the animal. In addition, the concept and action associated with this method of training is extremely easy. Because of the quick results, the pet owner stays motivated and consistent.
History and Concept of the Clicker Training Method
Before we provide some actual training scenarios using dog clicker training, we felt it important to offer an overview of its history and concept. Keep in mind that while this particular method is used most often for obedience training, it is also beneficial for other training purposes. In addition, clicker training is something that all breeds, regardless of size, respond to. Because of this, whether someone owns a Chow Chow or Yorkshire terrier, the same goal could be achieved.
Sometimes referred to as “magazine training”, this method is based on the concept of positive reinforcement opposed to punishment. Experts discovered some time ago that providing positive reinforcement is a much more effective way to get a dog to do what the owner wants. The clicker used is a small, hand-held device that makes a clicking sound when pressed. Eventually, the dog associates the clicker sound with good behavior, which is what makes training successful.
Two graduate students of psychology by the names of Keller Breland and Marian Baily developed clicker training along with an eminent behaviorist named B.F. Skinner. The initial concept was military based and involved using pigeons caught in the wild. As part of the test, these birds were actually taught to push balls with their beaks.
The discovery was that other methods used for training animals, even those that used positive reinforcement, were ineffective. The problem was that animals were not being given confirmation quick enough when positive or requested behavior was displayed. Because the clicker sound can be produced immediately upon an animal making a correct action, it speeds up training but also makes it more successful overall.
Although similar training methods were used on 140 species of animals to include dogs over the course of years, dog clicker training is now considered a standard method. Even though this particular training method can be used by anyone, it is essential for the animal owner to first become knowledgeable and skilled. The reason is that if clicker training were used incorrectly, it could actual be detrimental in achieving the ultimate goal.
Some of the key components of dog clicker training that a person should know as part of any training exercise include the following:
- Clicker training should be used as a way of helping a dog identify a correct or requested behavior, not as a method to maintain this behavior. In other words, the clicker would be ideal when teaching a dog a new command or trick but once mastered, the clicker should be replaced with a verbal or hand signal.
- Dog clicker training should take place in a quiet place without distractions. This way, the animal would have a chance to zero in on the sound, thereby learning quicker when a correct behavior was carried out.
- As part of clicker training special treats would help with the exercise session. For this, a command would be given and if carried out correctly, the clicker used. However, to reinforce the connection between the command and clicker sound a treat and praise would be offered to the dog. Keep in mind that as each command or trick is mastered, giving a treat would stop.
To make dog clicker training easier, more effective, and even enjoyable, we want to offer some additional tips. For starters, while most large breeds do not fear the clicker sound, a smaller breed such as the Yorkie could. This is why starting out slowly and introducing the actual device to the dog is essential. Otherwise, the animal could become so fearful that the clicker could never be used.
There are actually many different brands and styles of clickers, each making a distinct sound. Therefore, if one clicker is too loud an individual should consider buying one that makes a much softer noise. Remember, a dog has incredible hearing so while the sound might seem muted to a human it would be heard just fine by a dog.
We also suggest that someone interested in using dog clicker training start by developing the mechanical skills involved. While using a clicker is not difficult, there is a certain skill level involved. Typically, a little bit of practice will go a long way but if needed, there are several excellent books, DVDs, and online resources that provide excellent insight.
Finally, just as choosing the right clicker and performing the mechanism correctly are imperative to success, the pet owner would need to select appropriate treats. Of course, healthy treats that would not lead to a problem of obesity are always best. There are actual training treats sold at pet stores and pet supply stores but another option involves making them at home. The bottom line is that dog clicker training works as long as all the necessary things are in place.