Dogs are social animals and will do whatever it takes to stay in their social environment, their home. They will respond to any type of training , they will even work through pain or fear if necessary in order to stay, but that response is more out of fear of the consequences, not from the desire to do the work.
Traditional training is based on classical conditioning that depends on some form of coercion to get the dog to do what the trainer wants it to do (response from fear of consequences).
Clicker training on the other hand is based on operant conditioning that strengthens behavior by using positive rewards to reinforce desired behaviors (response from desire to do the work).
The question is, do they remember and perform better with positive reinforcement or from punishment. The reality is that with dogs , both types of training work because of their nature, but which is better? In my opinion, there is no question that clicker training is better (and the best available) – primarily because it is more loving and humane.
Clicker training focuses on changing behavior, not on changing the animal. It provides immediate, consistent feedback and positive consequences for desired behavior and neutral, non-threatening consequences for undesirable behavior. Once the dog understands both consequences, the training is fast, easy and positive.
Clicker training can be used for all types of dog training – from obedience in everyday activities to teaching work dogs (such as search and rescue) their performance patterns. It helps them develop agility, the ability to work through obstacles and to solve problems.
What Is a Clicker?
The clicker was originally a toy, in fact you may remember having one as a child – in fact I remember mine well. They were brightly colored metal pieces that were shaped like animals and made a clicking sound when pressed, and the sound drove my parents crazy.
Things have changed. The clickers used for dog training are made of colorful plastic and are either rectangular or oval-shaped with a flexible metal piece in the center that makes the distinctive clicking sound when pressed – and have a very important purpose.
They can be purchased at your local pet store or online. You may want to consider buying a clicker that has either a wrist attachment or a lanyard so that you have it with you whenever you need it.
Even though clickers are produced in lots of thousands, each clicker has its own distinctive sound, much like the human voice. This is important because in a training class (if you choose to go that way), your dog will be able to recognize the sound of your clicker among all the other clicker sounds.
It also means that the clicker doesn’t have to be right in the animal’s face to work. In fact, it is better if it isn’t in his face because loud noises can frighten the animal and slow down the training process.
The clicker can be used alone or with other training tools depending on the dog and the behaviors you are dealing with. If the training takes place in a quiet location with very few distractions, you probably won’t need anything to start other than the clicker and a bag of treats.
The clicker is a tool that helps you communicate effectively with your dog and when used correctly, creates a happy, well-adjusted dog who loves working with you.
Why Use the Clicker?
Some people wonder why your voice isn’t just as good as the clicker in letting your dog know he has done the right thing. The main reason is because the clicker sound is always the same. No matter how hard you try, there will be differences in voice inflections every time you speak to your animal.
Your pet hears your voice all the time in the daily routine of life, so there is no clear distinction when it is used to reinforce desired behaviors. It is also not as easy to verbally praise in the same consistent, timely way that can be done with the clicker. The clicker provides a non-emotional, reliable response to target behaviors that a dog quickly learns to recognize.
The dog responds to the clicking sound because he knows that the sound will immediately be followed by a reward. Because of the consistency of the click and the positive reinforcement, your pet will quickly learn to perform on cue because he wants to – not out of fear.
The clicker is not used forever. After a short time you can add verbal and visual cues as well, and those cues will eventually completely replace the clicker.
One big advantage of clicker training is that it can be used for dog training at home because it is as easy to learn for the owner, as it is for the dog . You do not have to be a professional trainer to be successful. The click and treat method is simple and consistent with quick results. Are you ready to give it a try?