Clicker training is the specific type of positive reinforcement that we use at Right on Cue Dog Training. We love it because it brings a level of precision to animal training which cannot be found in any other method. A "clicker-savvy" animal can learn new behaviors in a matter of minutes and can overcome challeging situations quickly and calmly.
We regularly speak with people who tell us they have heard of clicker training, have seen clickers sold in pet stores, or have even tried it out on their own pet; however, often as the conversation continues, these same individuals indicate that they know very little abut how clicker training works or they express frustration that "it didn't work for my dog." We want to assure you that when used correctly, clicker training works. Once you understand the concept behind clicker training, it is very easy to learn and to use. There are any number of books, YouTube videos, and trainers out there who can teach you how to use clicker training, and we would encourage anybody who is planning on trying it out to use some of those resources (a few of which are listed at the bottom of this post). For those of you who are looking for the basic concept, here it is-- Clicker Training 101.
Clicker training works in the following steps:
1) Get a certain behavior to happen.
2) Mark that behavior (often with an audible clicking sound) the exact moment it happens.
3) Reinforce the behavior with something the dog wants.
The first step (getting a certain behavior to happen) can be acheived any number of ways, but we, as positive reinforcement trainers, get behaviors to happen by setting up training situations such that the dog will do the behavior we are looking for on its own. We do not force the dog to do something, nor do we ask it to do something it is not yet capable of doing.
The middle step (marking the behavior with a ‘click’) is what tells the dog which exact moment it did something right and is what makes the process so precise. This is the step which distinguishes clicker training from other training methods. The sound of the click serves two purposes-- first, it communicates to the animal which exact behavior was 'correct' and second, it is a guarantee to the animal that it is about to get a treat. Clicker trained animals can learn new things so quickly because the animal understand precisely which behavior should be repeated.
The last step (reinforcing with something good) is what makes the dog want to do that precise behavior again. Reinforcement can be any number of things, but is often a favorite treat or playtime with a favorite toy.
Using a clicker makes animal training feasible for all people, regardless of age or physical capabilities. It also works on all animals, regardless of species, size, or age. At Right on Cue Dog Training, we usually use the first session of any training package to introduce you and your dog to clicker training; however, if you have a clicker at home (or have seen them in pet stores) and have been wondering how to use them, let us know! A trainer will gladly meet with you for a brief consultation to teach you how to use clicker training with any of the animals in your home.
Interested in trying clicker training on your own? Below are just a few of the many resources out there with more information about clicker training.
Don't Shoot the Dog by Karen Pryor
Click For Joy by Melissa Alexander