Clicker Training

06 March 2013

The Advantages of Clicker Training your dog

One of the misconceptions with training a dog is that we need to dominate our dogs to avoid them dominating us! This can result in a lot of mixed messages from a dogs’ point of view. The danger is that we can swing from overindulging our dogs by not setting clear enough boundaries to setting boundaries that are based on intimidation and fear. This can happen within a family where one person is very strict but everyone else cannot maintain that state and so the family dog gets mixed messages in this way. They will be “perfectly behaved” for one person (the very strict one) and run riot with everyone else.

What is clicker training?

Clicker training has developed from Behavioural Science as a way to communicate clearly with your dog what you are trying to teach them.

Verbal praise and instruction has been long used to teach and reward dogs and while they enjoy the praise, they don’t always fully understand the instruction and what we have to ask is- “Is praise enough of a motivation for most dogs when they are given it so freely throughout their lives?’ - Just for being gorgeous!

Dogs learn very quickly through association. The clicker is a tool that makes a sound that is not heard at any other time and once paired with food becomes a very powerful way of non- verbally telling your dog what they did right to get a reward.

Once your dog understands what you are teaching them and are reliable in all situations the clicks and treats can be faded out. It is a tool for training and doesn’t mean you have to use it forever!

The advantages over using a clicker instead of just using treats are many.

Initially it is a very accurate way of pinpointing exactly what they did right to earn a treat. It is consistent so children can train just as effectively as adults. As the treat arrives after the click this means your dog starts working for the click, which avoids situations where clever dogs will only work because you have a treat in your hand.

The click can very quickly be used to extend an exercise, so for example, the length of time your dog sits can vary as they learn to sit and wait for the click and treat. Puppies learn to calmly wait for the click as they realise the rules of the game.

I also find that it teaches dogs and their owners to read each other which means you are communicating with each other in very subtle ways. Owners become calm, leaders and dogs learn impulse control!

The principles behind the clicker appear very simple. They are, but it also creates a very stable way of working that sets boundaries without using force. The consistency of it and the way every family member can use it creates mutual trust and respect, which gives us the companion dog most of us want.

© Karen England2013

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