What is Clicker Training?
When a dog does something that we like, we need to let them know that they’ve done what we’ve asked. This is called marking, and it’s essential in training. Some people use a marker word such as yes, or good, and other people will use a clicker.
You can use any word that you like for your marker word. Many people will use “yes” or “good”. Make sure that the word is short. Be sure to ALWAYS use the same word. Don’t say “good” one time and then “good dog” another time. Make it easy for your dog to succeed. The best way to do this is by keeping your words as clear and consistent as possible.
Advantage of a Clicker
We use our voices all of the time, but a clicker is a very distinct sound that a dog will associate with a reward. It is argued that a dog will learn quicker with a clicker. It also helps to use a clicker to buy yourself a little bit of time to reach into your pocket for a treat.
It is a common misconception that if you clicker train your dog then you will have to carry around a clicker with you everywhere you go. This isn’t true. Once your dog has initially learned something new, you will fade the clicker out, replacing it with a marker word.
I use clicker training for many exercises, because I find that it keeps the dog focused. I will use the clicker even now when teaching a new exercise, even though my dog is conditioned to the “yes” marker because it helps him to know exactly what it is that I asked him to do, which makes it easier for him to repeat in the future.
It is VERY IMPORTANT to ALWAYS reward when you click. To your dog, the click means a reward is coming. If you neglect to give the reward after the click, then your dog will begin to pick and choose when he listens to your command. Eventually, over time, you may faze out the treats, but in the initial learning stage it is critical that you reward every single time that you click.
Exercise: Conditioning the Clicker
Have some of your dog’s favorite treats ready. Without your dog doing anything at all, click the clicker and immediately give your dog a treat. Do this 10 times. Take a break of a couple minutes, then repeat the exercise. You’re dog will learn very fast that the sound of the click means that a treat is coming. To test if your dog understands what the click means allow your dog to go about his regular activities in the house. When he is not paying attention to you, click, and if his ears perk up and he comes to you, then you know that he understands the significance of the clicker, and you’re ready to add commands.