Training is a great activity for both the owner and dog! The process of dog training helps curb bad dog behaviours and facilitates communication between owner and dog.
One of the most common ways dogs are trained is through positive reinforcement, a method that uses rewards to encourage a certain dog behaviour. Since dogs will repeat behaviours that get them what they want, positive reinforcement can help your dog recognize certain actions that will lead to the things they want like praise, affection, and treats. So where does clicker training fit into all this?
What is clicker training?
A clicker is a tool that makes positive reinforcement training more efficient for your dog. Usually, without a clicker, the trainer would reward the dog with a piece of treat or some sort of affection so the dog knows that the action is desired. With a clicker, the trainer can easily mark when the dog is doing a correct action so the dog will associate the sound with certain dog behaviours. For instance, if you are training your dog to raise a paw, you would click the clicker every time your dog raises its paw.
A dog clicker can help make positive reinforcement training more efficient
A dog clicker is usually a small plastic device that will make a distinctive clicking sound when pressed. However, the sound of a clicker is just a marker that your dog uses to distinguish the desirable actions. Therefore, you can easily substitute the clicker with an audio cue like snapping your fingers, clicking your tongue, or making a specific sound like “ch”. The purpose of a plastic clicker is so that you can have a unique audio cue that is used only during training. The marker should only be used during dog training or else it may confuse your dog.
Introducing your dog to clicker training
Before you start using a dog clicker to train your dog, you will need to first introduce this new audio device to your dog. Here are a few steps to guide your dog in clicker training:
- Take your dog to a quiet room with no distractions and prepare a good amount of bite-sized treats.
- Click the clicker once and feed your dog a small piece of treat. This is so your dog can slowly understand that the clicking sound will lead to something good. Repeat the process multiple times
- Repeat the process multiple times until your dog recognizes that the clicking sound predicts the coming of a treat or reward.
Partial rewards during clicker training
Theoretically, the sound of a clicker is the “reward” during training as your dog uses the sound to distinguish if the action was done correctly. However, if your dog is completely new to clicker training, you will need to use food or other sorts of rewards as a guide so they understand how to follow the clicker.
Usually, clicker training is done with food rewards on the side. When a dog demonstrates correct dog behaviour, the trainer will make a click and offer a treat to the dog. However, a recent study showed that partial rewarding does not improve training efficacy, and can induce frustration in dogs.
Since all dogs learn differently, you might need a few tries to test out if your dog learns best with partial rewards or just with the clicker. Either way, remember to treat your dog with lots of love, praise, and affection after each training session.
When to use the clicker
Clickers can be used during dog training as a lure to bring about positive dog behaviour. The clicker can also be used to capture good dog behaviour at any time. Capturing dog behaviour means that you are not actively luring your dog into doing a certain action. Instead of a short intensive training session, you are allowing your dog to show the desired behaviour naturally. When your dog does an action that you want them to repeat, click the clicker as a reward.
For example, if you see your dog lying down next to your feet naturally and you want to reinforce that behaviour, use the dog clicker and toss a small treat. Your sudden movement will most likely lead to excitement from your dog so you’ll have to wait until your dog shows the same movement naturally again. Although capturing dog behaviour will take more time and effort, it can still be fun and rewarding for both you and your pup!
Training your dog remotely
If you and your dog both love training sessions, you might want to check out the Furbo Dog Camera! Furbo is not only a camera that monitors your dog, it also has a treat dispenser that allows you to toss treats at your dog remotely. Before a treat is tossed, Furbo will make a “clicking” sound similar to your dog training clicker. With Furbo, you can gather your dog’s attention with multiple clicker options. The best part about Furbo is that you can train your dog at any time, and any place. With Furbo, you can clicker train your dog even if you’re in a different city! The clicker not only gets the attention of your dog when a treat is tossed but also reinforces positive dog behaviour.