Clicker Training BASICS
1. The Clicker is NOT a TOY and should ONLY be used as a training tool!
2. The clicker takes the focus off the reward so your dog can concentrate on what he was doing at the particular moment in time that he did the correct behavior.
- The click is like a camera taking a picture of the exact behavior that you like or that you want repeated.
- A good example is training a dolphin at Sea World to jump over a pole. As the animal jumps over the pole the trainer clicks (whistles) to tell the dolphin he was correct, and then swims back to the trainer to receive his fish reward for the behavior. If the trainer just gave him the fish with no click, then the dolphin might think that having his head out of the water with his mouth open is what earned him the fish and not the jump.
3. 1 Click = 1 Reward (or more rewards if the dog does something amazing; JACKPOT)
4. What types of rewards?
- Small smelly pea sized treats that are soft and easily swallowed so you don’t have to wait until your dog finishes chewing. Be unpredictable by using at least four different kinds of treats, toys, and make use of environmental rewards (playing with dogs, sniffing bushes, etc.) when training new tricks or behaviors.
5. NEVER click the clicker next to your dogs ear, unless you have a quiet muffled clicker.
6. If you click and you did not mean to click, you still OWE your dog a reward. If you do not want that behavior to happen again, then make sure you do not click that behavior again. Practice your timing!
7. If your dog knows the behavior, they don’t need to be clicked, they already know what they are doing.
- Clicking your dog is only reserved for training new behaviors or adding new criteria!
8. Clicking vs. “Good Boy”
The clicker is consistent and always sounds exactly the same. It has been tested scientifically that neurons in the brain can connect faster and more easily to a tone that sounds exactly the same rather than ones voice. If you are using a clicker you are actually conditioning the dog to find the behaviors reinforcing. Also, voice carries the trainer’s emotion. People are talking all the time to their dog’s, so it is hard to make a novel sound used only for training sessions with one’s voice. It is important to condition a word that means the same thing as a click for times that you do not have a clicker, when it is too difficult to hold the clicker, or if the dog is afraid of the clickers sound. I use the word “YES” to mark behaviors and condition the word “YES”, so that the dog understands it.
9. Keep your training sessions SHORT. 2-3 minutes! Play to celebrate successes. If you spread out short sessions throughout the day, a dog will learn much faster than a long session once a day. Train during commercial breaks when watching TV.
10. Start all training in a place with few to no distractions.
Different rooms in your house with no other dogs, or animals. Eventually progress to the yard, the street, and distracting places with other dogs and people as your dog is successful. If at anytime your dog does seem distracted, do not try to work through it. Move away from the distraction until your dog is able to listen and then go back to training the behavior. Set your dog up for success and increase the level of difficulty slowly. Kids start school in kindergarten and as they learn they move up in grades. We would never expect a kid to go from kindergarten to college right away, so don’t expect your dog to either.
Have fun with your dog! A dog’s life is just too short!