Positive reinforcement has proved itself to be effective in all areas of dog training, and much of its success can be attributed to clicker training. A clicker is an extremely useful dog training equipment that expedites the learning process. Clicker training is very versatile as well - whether you’re conducting dog obedience training at home or outdoors, you can always depend on your trusty clicker. If you want to learn how to clicker train a dog, read on!
What's clicker training
Clicker training is an effective training technique, nested under the umbrella of positive reinforcement methods, used to accelerate learning in dogs. Also referred to as a reward marker, the clicker is a small portable device used during training to mark desirable behaviours!
How does a dog clicker work? It’s as straightforward as it sounds, simply click and treat at the right time! When pressed, the clicker produces a distinct clicking sound that marks the right behaviour. It’s critical to avoid delays and follow up with a treat (use a high value treat like BARE’s) to prevent confusion! Your dog will then learn to associate that action with the click, and understands that this will lead to a positive outcome (rewards).
How to start clicker training
Clickers are great training tools because they minimise the delay between the time of good behaviour and reward, without you having to fumble to capture the action in time. But, in order for the true effectiveness of the training to shine through, here are some things to keep in mind before you get clicking:
1. Charge your clicker
Before going full steam with your clicker training, lock in the value of your Starmark Clicker by charging it. You can do this by first setting aside ten small treats. Next, get your dog to perform a command he already knows (like ‘Sit’), then click and reward. Repeat this until you’re done with all ten treats, and your clicker is charged. I.e. the clicker now has a registered value to your dog!
2. Start small
The essence of clicker training lies primarily in capturing and shaping behaviours with a clicker. Teach your dog to form good habits by capturing the right moment with a click and follow with a treat - this works wonderfully for basic commands! Remember to only reward after you’ve marked the behaviour with a click! For more advanced commands, break them down into smaller baby steps, and gradually click your way to the final desired behaviour.
3. Don't replace rewards with clicks!
Don’t get stingy with the treats! It’s fine to omit the occasional click and proceed directly with a treat (not too often, though!), but definitely not the other way round! The training will start losing its effectiveness once your dog disassociates the clicks with good behaviour due to the lack of incentives. That being said, the clicker should eventually phase out as a tool, but only once you’re very certain that your dog can do without it. When that time comes, interchange treats and praise as rewards!
4. Consistency is key
While it’s true that clicker training does not necessarily require an actual clicker - you can use verbal markers (“Yes!”) - the consistency that comes with one is what makes clicker training so effective! The tone is always the same which means you don’t have to worry about varying verbal pitches when the time comes.
Kim is an avid dog lover, serial guac and chips eater, and thrill seeker - all in one body. Currently chillin’ with her dogs.