Would you like to know how to teach a puppy in one session, a command that could take up to six months for them to learn? This clicker training guide shows you how.
Have you ever wondered how your group of loveable, bouncy
puppies is turned into a team of intelligent dogs capable of helping disabled people cope with everyday life? The answer is time, patience and a small plastic device known as a clicker.
Clicker training has become the training method of choice for many behaviorists and dog training professionals; It’s not just a a case of teaching dogs to sit, stay and come either. Dogs can be taught to perform a whole range of tasks – from calling a lift to drawing money from the bank.
Nina Banderen who trains assistance and guide dogs for charities says “I’ve trained more than 30 dogs with the clicker and l’ve never met one who didn’t respond to it.
How Do You Use a Clicker To Train a Dog?
Firstly, Although dogs communicate all the time, they are non-verbal so they really have no idea what you are saying to them – no matter how loud you say it!”
The noise the clicker makes is clear and easy to understand and most dogs pick it up very quickly. While a word command may take a few seconds to say, the clicker is an instant signal telling them they are doing the right thing.
The concept of using a noise signal rather than words to communicate a response began with the treatment of children with behavioral problems. Since then it has been developed to train dolphins, foxes, chickens – and of course dogs!
The First Click!
Introducing a dog to the clicker is a fairly straightforward exercise. The trainer clicks the device once and gives the dog a food reward. This is repeated over and over again until the dog firmly associates the sound of the click with the appearance of a treat. Labradors should have no problem here!
Greedy dogs learn very quickly, although it can take a little longer with those who are not so interested in food.
Teaching Sit in 5 minutes
Once the dog has grasped the general idea, they can then be trained to do certain exercises. It can take as little as five minutes to teach a dog to sit using the clicker.
- You simply wait until they decide to sit down, then click and treat. Keep doing this until they understand the connection and can repeat it 30 times in a row.
- Then add the command ‘Sit’ and repeat the exercise a further 30 times. After that, don’t click when they sit unless you have given them the command to do so.
- lf they walk off in the middle of the lesson, that’s fine, let them go. They will come back when the’re ready to start training again, you don’t need to drag your puppy back and force them to do things.
Any puppy should be able to get the hang of clicker training. It is easy because there is nothing to impede the connection between the action and the reward. And it enables you to teach a puppy in one session a command that could take up to six months for them to learn.”
One benefit of using a clicker is that you don’t have to interrupt the training session to give the dog their reward. Making a fuss of them or having a game can distract you both and create mixed signals, but a click and treat is quick and easy to give.
You don’t even need to be near the dog to reward them as you can throw the treat to them or get someone else to offer it.
Using the clicker also means that the dog can be rewarded at exactly the right moment. Timing is crucial in dog training, as an early reward or one that comes to late can cause confusion.
Even if the food is a little slower coming, the sound of the click tells the dog when they have done the right thing. This is particularly important when trying to teach some of the more complicated skills.
Learning more complicated tasks
lmagine being faced with the task of training a dog to open a washing machine. You’re basically saying to the dog: ‘See this machine that is irrelevant to you in your life, not only do I want you to pay attention to it but I want you to interact with it. How do you do that?
Using the clicker the dog can instantly receive information without being distracted by you. They start to offer behaviour which you can then direct and reward and that gives you something to work with.
It doesn’t take long for the dogs to grasp what is expected of them and in time they learn to associate performing the task with the sense of achievement that comes with it and will do it voluntarily. After that they begin to work without a click or a treat.
Once a dog has learned to perform a command you can encourage them to try harder by withholding the click for a count of five. The dog’s response is to attempt various things to see which action results in a click.
Problem solving and brain training for your dog
As well as teaching dogs to perform specific skills, clicker training encourages them to attempt to solve problems themselves. This makes it ideal for training assistance dogs who are likely to deal with a variety of challenges and situations throughout their careers.
The speed with which the clicker enable a dog to perform a new task should be of interest to anyone who doesn’t have much spare time to train their poochy pal. Clicker training saves a lot of time because it encourages the dog to do what you want them to, rather than trying to prevent them from doing what you don’t. With conventional training it usually takes much longer to teach dogs the same skills.