How to Clicker Train Your Dog

How to Clicker Train Your Dog

Dog clicker training is one method that can give you excellent results. In terms of function, the clicker is similar to the clicker that many people remember from their childhood. A small, handy device made of plastic or metal that, depending on the model, emits a short, soft to medium-loud click or “click-clack”.

Clicker training has a long tradition. The clicker has been used to train various animal species since the mid-20th century. But only since the early 1990s has it been specifically used in dog training. The basics of this learning method are simple and are often explained using the psychological term “positive reinforcement”. The only principle behind this is that you reward (reinforce) the training goals that you expect from your dog. Of course, the click does not represent the reward itself but is merely the signal for your dog that he has done something right and will soon be rewarded with a treat or something similar. Because every animal will more often display the behavior that also brings something to itself.

Get used to the clicker slowly

First, you should begin to familiarize yourself with the clicker on your own so you don’t confuse your dog. Understand how it works, what noises it produces, and for what and when you want to use it. Because of course, it’s not the clicker that trains your dog, but you; it just helps you send a clear signal to your dog that he has done something right. In addition to the clicker, you should also have enough treats with you that are particularly tasty so that your dog can remember the reward well.

Your dog must first learn that a click equals a reward. Be sure to test how your dog reacts to the sound of the clicker beforehand. Complete disinterest or looking up with interest is fine. He mustn’t be frightened. Dogs that are very sensitive to noise can also be afraid of a loud clicker. In such a case, it is better to choose a quieter version! Then it starts: Your dog should associate a click with the reward. You start with a very simple training. You distribute treats and activate the clicker. The timing is already important: the dog clicks exactly when it takes the treat. You should repeat short units of this exercise over several days. After that, your dog will understand.

The first exercise

Start with a simple exercise. You want your dog to walk up to a certain object and touch it with his snout. It is best to choose an object that is of little interest to the dog so that the learning effect becomes clear to him. For example, put a thick book in the middle of your living room. Once you’ve gotten your dog to look at the book, press the clicker for the first time. Your dog will likely look up and orient itself away from the book in your direction for a treat. Of course he gets that too. That your dog interrupts the shown and desired behavior after you click is completely normal and ok. You will quickly notice that he quickly orients himself towards the book again when he begins to understand the exercise.

For example, if he slowly begins to walk towards the book, another click follows and then a reward. Maybe he’s starting to understand what he’s supposed to do and moving more quickly toward the book. Then the next click follows with a reward. Arriving in front of the book, he will probably stop and not quite know what to do. Encourage him to try different behaviors, and whenever he touches the book with his snout, click the clicker and reward him. So that he doesn’t forget this behavior right away, put the book in a different place in the room and repeat the whole process. After the time you will see how your dog now knows exactly what to do and that the clicking confirms that he is on the right track.reward .

Why clicker training?

You’re probably wondering what the point of clicking is – after all, you have to take two steps to reward the dog. It’s actually quite simple: The clicker gives you time for the actual reward. When it comes to training, timing is everything. Here is an example: Your dog is sitting quietly next to you and you want to reward him for exactly that. After at least a second of reaction time, you start searching your treat bag for a treat. Now you’ve found one, your hand is on the way to your dog and at that moment he jumps up because he saw the neighbor’s dog across the street. You have now missed the right moment for the reward. Because if your dog now gets the treat, you can actually imagine what you are rewarding him for:

With a short “click” after the one-second reaction time, you would have already rewarded your dog – and then you have a moment to find the treat and give it to him.

You can also work better at a distance. If your dog is far away from you, you can’t quickly give him a treat to reward him. A sound signal is much more practical here! After the click sound, the dogs often run towards the owner – in anticipation of the reward. This is completely right. But never use the clicker as a recall signal. Because by doing so you destroy its actual meaning for the dog and make further clicker training impossible.

Tips for clicker training

• Always click the clicker during the behavior you want, not after. The timing is crucial here so that there are no misunderstandings between you.

• Make sure that the exercises are not too long. It’s better to train for five to ten minutes a few times a day than just once for an hour.

• Always carry the clicker with you when you are walking your dog. That way you always have it ready when you want to reinforce behavior and a click is in order.

• You can also teach your dog to break bad habits in the same way. Just only click when he’s behaving the right way. When he keeps his feet on the ground around acquaintances and doesn’t jump at them, when he stays calm around strangers and doesn’t start barking.

• Be self-critical. Clicker training is not bossing around. If your dog doesn’t respond to your signals the way you want it to, it doesn’t mean he won’t listen to you. In most cases, he just doesn’t know exactly what you want from him. Then try lighter exercises, again paying attention to your timing, until you get the hang of each other.

See Also: How to Use Clicker Training to Communicate With Your Dog

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