The key to positive reinforcement training is to communicate your appreciation at the exact time your pet dog accurately responds to a command. For most people training their dogs, giving a treat or saying something like “attaboy” works relatively well. However, subtle changes in tone or the changes in the way you appreciate your dog’s effort can disrupt the communication and thus render training sessions ineffective.
A clicker is a simple device that produces a consistent “click” sound. Once your dog is conditioned to that sound, it will know to associate that sound to a job well done. Once that is established, you can start using the clicker and some tasty treats to train your dog effectively in a short amount of time.
What Is a Clicker?
It’s a small device with a button. Pressing that button creates “click” sound, hence its name. The sound tells your dog that you appreciate a certain action and a reward is coming. These clickers are easily available in pet stores online and they are usually pretty affordable, costing not more than a few dollars.
How to Condition Your Dog to a Clicker?
Training your dog to associate the “click” sound as appreciation is actually pretty simple. The clicker produces a sound that instantly grabs attention without causing any distress or fear.
To start off, you need to gather a couple of things. Make sure you have the clicker ready to go and a bag of dog treats that you know your pet loves. With these two things at hand, it’s time to start the clicker conditioning training.
With the dog around you, click the clicker and quickly hand your dog a treat. At this point, do not try and give your dog any commands. Just make the click sound and then give your dog a treat. Repeat this activity so that your dog understands to associate the sound with a treat.
You know your dog is conditioned to the clicker when it starts paying attention as soon as you have the clicker in your hand. Properly conditioned dogs usually look intently at the clicker waiting for the sound. Once that happens, you are ready to move on to the next step, that is to train your dog using a clicker.
Step-1: Make the Click Sound
Step-2: Give Your Dog a Treat After the Sound
Step-3: Repeat till Your Dog Start Paying Attention Every Time You Hold the Clicker
Training Tips to Remember
Some dogs are easily scared and are jumpy by nature. Try not to startle them when making the first click sound. Holding the clicker too close to their face or catching them off guard are not recommended dog training tactics.
Use small yet tasty treats. This ensures your dog doesn’t fill itself up on treats after a long training session. Tiny portions of soft boneless meat work really well and so does tiny portions of a quality dog treat product.
Advantages of Training Dogs Using a Clicker
There are several dog training methods, some effective while others not so much.
Clicker training is probably the most effective training method that does not use hurtful stimulus or scare tactics. It takes a positive association and allows you to channel that into encouraging a desirable action.
Clicker training dogs also creates a positive training environment. Neither you or your dog are unnecessarily stressed out after or during the training period. Following are a few advantages of clicker training for dogs.
Dogs Do Not End up Losing Their Confidence: Harsh training methods that involve shock collars and choke collars can make your dog skittish. That’s because it makes your dog fearful of a wrong action. Using these dog training tactics can steal your dog’s natural confidence. Clicker training does the exact opposite. It teaches your dog to love the sound because a reward is on its way. If you do it right, you will be left with a happy and confident pet that’s ready to please.
Training Session Become Fun Bonding Activities: Kind of a continuation of the last point, harsh training methods create a negative environment. This means every time your dog senses that it’s training time, it automatically becomes stressed out. This is surely not how you want your dog to be because they respond best when they are attentive and confident.
Dogs Participate with Great Intent: As mentioned earlier, dogs love to participate and they are usually eager to please when you get the clicker out. This is when they are highly receptive to new commands and thus training takes less time and effort.
Clicker Training is More Comfortable for the Trainer: A lot of people wonder why they need the clicker. They can just as easily snap their fingers or say something like “good boy” after the dog responds desirably following a command. Technically, there is no harm in doing that. Some trainers do not use clickers at all. However, making a consistent sound throughout a 30-minute training session is tiring. It’s much more comfortable to press a button.
Teaching Your Dog to Paw or Shake Using a Clicker
Once your dog is conditioned, you can start teaching it new tricks. It’s best to start with a simple trick and then move on to complex ones. This will give both you and the dog enough time to adjust to the new system.
Follow this easy dog training tutorial only after you condition it to the clicker. If you haven’t, check out the section above, it only takes about 10 to 15 minutes.
Once your dog makes the connection that “click” equals “good boy”, you are ready to train.
When teaching your dog to paw or shake do not physically grab your dog’s paw. This is only going to confuse your pet and delay the training process. The best way to start is to extend your arm (palm facing up) and wait for the dog to paw your palm. If your dog paws your hand, then make the click sound and immediately follow it up with a treat. Even if the dog does it unintentionally, it will quickly learn that this is the desired behavior and before long start doing it consciously.
If your dog shows no intention of pawing, then hide a few treats in your hand and make a fist. Click when your dog tries to access them by pawing your fist and then follow it up with a treat. Repeat this exercise until your dog understands that it needs to extend its paw when you make a certain hand gesture.