Quite sure you have also heard about the so-called clicker training. It can be used for the entire training of the dog, starting from the first day of training. Many dog owners find their way to clicker training when their dog is getting on their nerves and they need a new approach to training. Others use it when they get into dog sports like trick dog or dog dancing. So there must really be something to the clicker that can sound off at any time. Let’s uncover its secrets.
What is clicker training?
Clicker training is a very simple way of responding to behaviors. With each click, the dog is shown that the behavior just shown can be evaluated positively. Besides the basic training you can support every kind of training of the dog with the clicker training very well.
The positive effect is achieved not only by the immediate confirmation of a positive behavior. Also it lies in the fact that a physical correction or intervention is not carried out in any way. It is only the click that sounds or not. Thus, it is possible to work with dogs that are either very shy or have behavioral problems. Even animals that have been mistreated by an owner and therefore have a difficult relationship with humans can find access to humans again in this way. Communication can be re-established by means of the clicker, so that the dog learns to understand humans (again) in a disembodied way.
Receiver of orders or active partner?
One could also consider the clicker method as a version where the dog learns to learn. But the one who learns to learn is no longer a mere recipient of orders. He learns to learn and can therefore actively participate in the interaction with the human.
Clicker training = magic bullet?
No, unfortunately this cannot be confirmed. Clicker training is not able to work miracles either. No dog, as soon as it has understood clicker training, will immediately master all lessons or be able to recognize all the owner’s wishes via telepathy. This form of learning should not be considered a sport for dogs.
When you get right down to it, this method is not a new discovery either. It has only become very well known and popular now. There is still a lot of work to be done to teach the dog the lessons. By the way, it does not matter what lesson he is about to learn. After all, we know that not every dog can perform every lesson at its best. But we must recognize the clicker method as a learning method of positive reinforcement and use it as exactly that to achieve the desired results.
Positive reinforcement of correct behavior influences correct behavior
A long headline for an important paragraph. And at the same time, it is also the core message of clicker training. It is the behavior that is determined by its consequences. A statement that does not only apply to dogs. Humans and other animals can also be encouraged to behave in a certain way.
Directly related to the dog, you can also make the statement: Reward your dog for a very specific behavior, he will equate it with a positive reaction from you as a reward. Therefore, it is only a logical conclusion for him (if dogs are said to think logically) that he will show this behavior again in order to benefit from the positive reaction again.
Once both you and your dog have understood and internalized this principle, there is absolutely no reason why your dog should disobey you. After all, you have just been handed the key to optimized interaction.
Reward = pleasant consequences
Positive reinforcement is not only used in clicker training. Even if the dog receives a treat for a correct behavior or the handler is brought to a hearty “You did a nice job.” with a short ear rub, this is a pleasant consequence, a reward.
However, the clicker has the advantage that the dog does not necessarily have to sit directly in front of you. He can also be praised up to a certain distance. If this is done, there are two positive effects for the dog: On the one hand he is praised for his correct, desired behavior. On the other hand he can have the feeling that he gets the praise even if he did not come back directly “at heel”. This ability also characterizes an “active dog partner” – to behave correctly even though distance is maintained.
We must not forget that our dogs are absolute egoists, at least in terms of rewards. So it is not surprising that they always want to get from us exactly what they like best – the reward, the positive reaction, the goodwill of his handler. Of course, this works best with dog treats. For his favorite treat, the dog does everything in his power. Gladly also several times in succession.
As we have already seen, for one it is the treat, for another it is the tap of the neck / shoulder and for the dogs whose masters use the clicker, it is just the clicker. In professional circles it is also called “training on reward basis”.
With clicker training, as with the other types of reward-based training, it is important to have the right timing for the reward. Did you know that our animals are not able to hold the connection between their behavior and our response for a long time. However, they also have a different terminology for “long time”.
Since this time period is quite short, we as handlers have exactly 1 second to give the reward. By the way, it is irrelevant whether you want to praise or punish the dog. Both have to happen within this one second. Unfortunately, this is exactly the point where most dog owners start sweating. While that one second may seem like an eternity to the dog, it is simply far too short for many dog owners. Perhaps this should be illustrated with a few examples:
- Terriers are naturally lively. They are also only too happy to jump briefly at any visitor to greet him. Therefore, he should learn to lie still until the command to get up is given. Since he is still young, however, he can be compared to a bouncy ball. As soon as he is lying completely on the floor, he jumps up again and dashes through the area. You don’t have time to get a treat out of the bag. After all, there is no reward for jumping up and running off.
- Nothing is more pleasant than a dog that takes it directly from the letter carrier and brings it to you. It’s just too bad that your dog thinks fetch is really stupid. Therefore, practice first with the stick, the rope or the ribbon. Here, too, it is difficult to be fast enough with the praise. The dog probably already suspects what is coming and drops the stick as fast as lightning when he sees the treat. Unfortunately, this rewards him for dropping it. He has long forgotten about the retrieve.
You yourself surely know these situations very well, too. And it is exactly at this point that the clicker is pulled out of the bag and comes into play.
Small and always at hand
What kind of thing is the Clicker? Do you remember the clicker from your childhood, with which you could drive all adults crazy? Congratulations – now you can use it without being nagged. Two variants are available:
- The model with the metal tab to press on it.
- The model where you press a button to create the clicking sound
Both of them are available in stores on a regular basis.
Strictly speaking, you can also use another marker instead of the clicker:
- A short whistle
- A click of the tongue (attention – not suitable if you are prone to a dry mouth)
- A short, brisk yip or yihi or something similar
No matter which of these markers you choose to use, as long as it is used at the right moment, the dog will know exactly what he received that reward for. And will store this experience accordingly and be happy to repeat it on demand. Finally, the next reward beckons.
If we stick to the above examples of not being able to reward quickly enough, we will be able to make the observation with the clicker that it is not that difficult to catch the right moment. And as soon as the jumping terrier has found out that the click always sounds at the moment when he is lying down, he is guaranteed to stay lying down longer so that he may hear it again. The same will happen to the dog that drops the retrieved stick or newspaper too quickly. The click will sound while he still has the newspaper in his mouth. Cool, as long as I hold on, I get rewarded. This or something similar might be the dog’s thought process. So he’ll hold on to the stick longer and longer.
Believe it – it will work. But a little patience, a little perseverance are necessary.
How do I capture the right moment?
That’s right, it’s not all that easy. Because sometimes we simply rejoice for far too long over the success of the lesson. That needs to be practiced. But that’s actually not difficult either, if you have a little imagination. Why? Well, you certainly know those photographers at folk festivals, waiting everywhere for snapshots that they can then sell to the newspapers. Imagine that you, too, are armed with a camera.
You have your eye constantly on the viewfinder, your finger constantly on the shutter release button. That’s the only way you can’t miss a single snapshot. And it’s the same with Clicker. Just keep it in your hand while you tackle the exercise you’re working on with the dog. If you have to look for the clicker somewhere in your pocket when the dog has already had his first success, your first opportunity for praise has already passed.
So – you take the clicker in your hand. Only now throw the stick or give the command to lie down. Watch very carefully. Do not let the dog out of your sight for a second. Imagine that you are the hunter who has to target the game precisely. You have to be very mindful and look closely to spot THE moment to click and click immediately.
If we stay with the idea of photographing the right moment, we should also imagine that this snapshot will also be burned into the dog’s mind like a photograph. He will recall this image over and over again to receive the desired praise and repeat the exercise following the example of the memorized snapshot.
The build-up program
Once the initial lessons are successful, this can be built upon. The commands “Sit”, “Down” and “Stay” will emerge from the terrier’s lying down. You will be pleased to find that the dog learns these lessons much faster, even though they are more difficult than the actual stay down. No wonder – the dog now knows what he is doing it for: Clicking means that the human is happy and praises me. Very good, then I do exactly that and nothing else It will be the same with retrieving. All lessons are now based on this positive experience the dog has had.
Who begins already in the puppy age with the Clickern, can educate on this a relaxed dog, which waits for a not-physical reward point-exactly set. For both, dog and master, this way of training is very relaxed once you get the hang of it.
… and if something does not work?
First of all, there is the question: Is the dog interested in this sound at all? Of course, this will not be the case at the beginning. How also? The dog must learn that this sound should be a marker for him. In order to teach him this, we work conventionally with treats. One click = one treat. This is repeated several times in a row. Then it is over for the first day.
The next day the game is repeated. After a few days the dog should have understood that the click means that it is followed by something positive. Then, the amount of treats is reduced until the dog only responds to the click. And only then the actual clicker work is started. Up to this point, it is the normal conditioning of an animal to the treats, the great things in life.
Now when you use the clicker, always remember that only positive things are rewarded at the right moment. In fact, nothing can go wrong. If the dog has not performed the task, the command correctly, simply do not click. Point, end! The dog can also quickly understand this.
What makes clicker so special?
There’s this phrase among dog trainers: “If you’ve never clicked a dog, you haven’t seen its full potential!”
- Dogs that are clicked know immediately if a behavior was correct or not. They are informed and therefore an independent thinking, active partner to the handler. Since they are eager for the next praise, they will complete the tasks on their own initiative. This makes working together a very satisfying experience for both of them.
- With clicker, even more complicated tasks become a feasible affair.
- If you are serious about clicker training, you can do it without any punishment at all.
- The independent thinking of the dog is promoted. This in turn leads to the fact that completely normal “everyday problems” can be regarded from another point of view. For some, this means a dog that sleeps well. Because independent thinking makes dogs tremendously tired. They will think about what they are doing in many everyday situations, since they actually want to get their reward. And they will find their way to get it too.
Just try it out and give yourself and your dog a generous initial time. Once you have overcome this with flying colors, probably nothing will dissuade you from clicker training.
Is every dog suitable for clicker training?
In principle, every dog can be confronted with clicker training. However, as with any educational measure, it cannot be guaranteed in advance that this method will work. Since it is a disembodied, penalty-free method, but you should definitely try it once.
Where can the clickers be bought?
They are sold at regular feed stores or dog outfitters. They are sold in two varieties, both of which are conceivably easy to use.
Is a dog trainer needed to get started with clickers?
Actually, no. You need the clicker, the dog, and initially patience until the dog understands that the click is his reward. Once you have overcome this hurdle, you can start with tasks from training or dog sports.
What makes clicker so special?
Clicking enables the dog to react independently to its tasks. In a sense, he is encouraged to think for himself. This will have an effect on every single everyday situation – positively, of course.
Can children also click with the dogs?
Even children can easily understand the principles of clicker and thus communicate with the dog. Of course, they should be supervised by an adult in the process, so that the lessons are actually executed correctly. If necessary, an intervention would be in the interest of all involved to be able to educate an obedient dog without punishment and contact.