US Service Animals – Our Guide to Clicker Training Dogs

clicker-training-dogs

One of the first things a dog owner asks after bringing home a new puppy is how to train it. There are many strategies and tactics for training dogs, and it’s hard to know which one is best. Positive training techniques are currently more popular than negative training, and clicker training is a tried and true method that uses positive reinforcement to encourage good behavior. 

What Is Clicker Training?

Clicker training is a positive method of dog training in which the owner clicks a small remote control each time the dog shows a desired behavior. Every time the owner clicks the clicker, the dog receives a treat. The dog is able to receive instant feedback that whatever behavior was just performed was met by a positive response from its owner. Over time the dog begins to associate the sound of the clicker with receiving a treat for a certain behavior, such as sitting, lying down, or rolling over. Eventually, the dog learns the correct behaviors in order to hear the clicker and receive the reward. 

Does Clicker Training work?

Clicker training is an efficient way to train your dog, as it is science-based and backed by a multitude of research. Many studies have proven that animals are able to learn by association, and the method can be traced back to Pavlov’s Theory of Classical Conditioning, in which he showed that dogs would associate the sound of a bell with food if it was rung before each meal. Gradually, the dogs would begin to anticipate food by salivating just from hearing the sound of a bell, even if there was no food present. Clicker training is based on the same theory that dogs will begin to associate the sound of the clicker with some sort of reward, and eventually the sound of the clicker will prompt the dogs to show the correct behavior without treats being present. 

How To Clicker Train Your Dog

Before you begin training your dog with the clicker, you must first condition the dog to associate the clicker with a reward. This can easily be done by clicking the clicker at random times and rewarding the dog with a treat immediately after. Carry some treats around in your pocket, and click the clicker in various places and situations, such as in public, at home, while sitting, while standing, in the car, etc., so the dog realizes the clicker can be used anywhere and at any time. Your dog will learn that every time he hears the clicker, he will immediately be rewarded. 

Once your dog understands the meaning of the clicker, you can begin training it using the clicker method. Start by choosing the task or trick you want your dog to learn. It’s best to begin with something simple the dog already does naturally, for example, sitting. Each time your dog sits, say the word “sit”, click the clicker and give a treat. Repeat every time you catch your dog sitting. Soon, the dog will be prompted to sit when you give the command “sit”.  Practice giving the command, and each time your dog obeys, immediately click the clicker and follow with a treat. Repeat this process for all commands you’d like your dog to learn. 

Tips For Clicker Training Your Dog 

  • If you click the clicker, you must give your dog a treat. Consistency is key here; even if you accidentally click the clicker, it’s better to go ahead and give your dog a treat, or the dog may get the impression that clicks don’t always mean rewards.

  • Keep treats hidden as much as possible, such as in a bag or in your pocket. If you hold treats in your hand before you click the clicker, the dog will learn he only has to behave if you’re holding a treat. By hiding treats, your dog will learn there is a potential to earn treats at any time, so he should always obey and show good behavior, not just when the owner is holding a treat. 

  • Don’t use your clicker to get your dog’s attention, as this will confuse the dog and interfere with the dog’s understanding of the clicker. 

Clicker training is a positive type of training that is very effective. Although it can be time-consuming, it is worth it once your dog is able to obey and follow commands. With a little patience and these tips, you’ll have your dog trained using a clicker in no time.