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Fun, positive training is one of the best ways to secure a great relationship with your dog. Positive training helps establish a stronger bond between dog and owner – one based on trust.
What is clicker training?
Clicker training is one of the most modern, effective and enjoyable methods available. Based on sound scientific principles, this tool will allow you to communicate with your dog – and train him or her to do practically any action you choose. For fun, one of my dogs sneezes on cue and the other one I taught to yawn on cue – both very difficult using traditional training, but simple with the clicker!
What is a clicker?
A clicker is a small plastic box containing a piece of flexible steel. When pressed and released at one end, this makes a distinctive ‘click, click’ sound which can be taught to have meaning to your dog.
How does it work?
Over a number of repetitions, the dog learns that the sound of the clicker means he’s done the right thing and that a reward – food, play or affection, is on its way. The clicker is not a cue, or a command, but a signal of reward (in technical terms this is known as a conditioned reinforcer) that tells the dog what he got the reward for.
How will my dog understand what it means?
Your dog will make the association between the clicker and goodies by repetition and reward. The sound of the clicker marks the dog’s action as being right, a little like putting a tick next to a correct sum on a page.
Why is the clicker effective?
The clicker is always positive and highly accurate. Anyone in the family can use it and the message stays the same. You can give clear information to your dog about his actions up close, or from a distance, without your feelings being expressed in your voice. The clicker rewards actions you like – you simply ignore actions that you don’t.
This initial neutral quality is one of the clicker’s greatest assets. However, the speed with which this sound becomes a conditioned reinforcer is amazing. Many orient themselves towards the clicker, not the food, in a matter of minutes.
Food is a high level reward for dogs as it is a primary resource – it is necessary for survival. While other forms of reinforcement, such as toys, can work successfully, for the purpose of learning multiple things in quick succession food is the quickest, high-level reward for most dogs.
The food chosen must be worth working for and appropriate to the level of task you are working on with the dog. If the dog receives dried food every day as their meal, that same food may not cut it as a reward for say re-calling from distractions. They would need to be offered something of “higher value” such as cheese, chicken, hotdog, or jackpotting with lots of treats.