When clicker training dogs, you will be surprised how very focused your dog will be on you as it will be expecting a reward – usually food. This focus is very important, especially if working with a group of more than one dog, when you want your dog’s undivided attention without him getting distracted by others around him. Remember, the clicker is a construction tool, rather than a performance tool. It helps you work out (construct) one section of the behaviour, which can lead to another and another behaviour.
A clicker provides a precisely timed signal to mark your dog’s good behaviour. Words are far less efficient as the tone used can vary considerably. The brisk, quick, decisive and consistent sound of a clicker works much better.
One question many ask me, is “Can you use negative control when training your dog”? The simple answer is ‘yes’ but nothing is ever that simple, is it? Knowing when, how and how often to use negative reinforcement is an important consideration you will have to make.
Most people give a voice command when training a dog. With the clicker method you should leave the voice out of the training until the dog can do what it is being trained to do. Just use a clicker, reward and signals. So, how do you use both verbal and visual cues when training with a clicker?
During training, changing your expectations does not necessarily mean you are lowering your standards; rather, you are providing variety and keeping your dog interested and alert. It is important to understand this and know when to implement so that you can get quick results.
How to Get Quick Results When
Training Your Dog
Clicker training for dogs is based on operant conditioning, which is where your dog acts upon something in the environment which results in you rewarding the consequences of your dog’s action. Behaviours that do not get reinforced will eventually get extinguished.
Operant conditioning merely means ‘learning by consequences’ which can be both pleasant and unpleasant. It is a behaviour that is determined by its consequences; pleasant consequences for success, unpleasant consequences for failure. Remember, in clicker training for dogs, that no single reinforcer can keep a dog motivated at all times e.g. food. Though some of you may have a dog that seems to defy that suggestion!
Positive relationship that increases the bonding and teamwork between trainer and dog leads to excellence in the performance of learned behaviours.
It is very important to always reward with a ‘click’, every time your dog does the correct thing. Clicker training for dogs is mainly used to shape the behaviour of the dog. In many cases food is also used as a lure to ‘bribe’ the dog to better understand what is being asked of it. However, behaviour that is offered without the bribe is best (operant behaviour).
Many handlers wonder if they should use negative reinforcement when training their dog. The answer is to use as little negative reinforcement as possible.
When using the clicker you must try not to speak to the dog; this is very hard for most folk to get used to. You only add a voice command after the dog is able to do the task you have set e.g. ‘sit’. Your training initially should only be the clicker, reward and signal. You need to know when and how to use verbal and visual tools.
When training make your routine varied; from what you are asking and for how long you are asking. It does not mean that you are lowering your standards if you ask a dog to only sit for one minute, even though you know he will sit for 3 minutes; it just means that you are providing variety (which will keep your dog alert).