Positive reinforcement has played an integral role in dog training for more than a generation. Rewarding desired behaviors has proven to deliver better results over the long run than punishing unwanted behaviors. Rewards typically include food treats, toys, playing games, and taking walks. The problem is, providing these rewards may be inconvenient, and in the case of food treats, unhealthy in large amounts. A good solution is to use a clicker during training sessions.
A clicker is a plastic box with a thin strip of metal contained inside. Pressing a button embedded into the casing produces a clicking sound. The sound serves as affirmation to the animal, informing him that he has done something correctly. When used properly, it lets him know that he will be given a treat later. Owners can thus train their pets while avoiding the inconvenience of providing rewards immediately.
In this article, we’ll explain how to get started with clicker training, beginning with teaching your canine to respond to a click. You’ll then learn how to use the device while training him to perform basic and advanced commands.
Teaching Your Dog That A Click Means A Reward
At first, the sound made by the clicker will mean nothing to your canine. He has not yet associated it with your desire for him to perform a specific response. Nor has he developed an expectation of a reward for doing so. You’ll need to teach him. Bring him to a quiet area in your home, and have a supply of treats available.
Make the clicking sound, and give your pet a treat. Refrain from making him respond to a command to earn the reward. The goal here is to simply create a connection between the sound and the treat. Repeat this several times. Your dog will eventually understand that the click indicates a treat will be given to him.
Reinforcing Recognition With Basic Commands
Next, use the clicker to practice basic commands with which your pet is already familiar. This introduces a verbal prompt that indicates a desired action. For example, instruct him to “sit.” If he does so successfully, even if he hesitates, click and give him a treat. If he fails to respond correctly, withhold the click and treat, and try again.
Practice having your canine come to you. Do so from short distances at first, but slowly increase the space that separates you. If your pet hesitates along the way, click, but do not reward. The click informs him that he is doing well, but has not yet completed the correct response. Continue clicking every two or three seconds to encourage him further. When he arrives near you, click one last time, and reward him.
Use the clicker to practice other basic commands, such as “stay,” “down,” and “drop it.” The purpose is not to reinforce proper responses (though this will occur as a side benefit), but to further strengthen the connection your dog has made with the clicking sound. This is a necessary step before using the clicker to teach advanced commands.
Using A Clicker Heroes 2 To Teach Advanced Commands
There are several commands you may want to teach your dog that are likely less intuitive to him. Examples include “steady,” “back up,” “stop,” and “give.” Like all new instructions, repetition and rewards given for success are the keys for prompting the correct responses. Here too, a clicker can be used to alleviate the need to provide immediate rewards. Use the same procedure as the one used while practicing basic commands.