Clicker training in a Class Environment

12 April 2015

The reason we use a clicker in class is because it's effectiveness in giving clear information to your dog. Praise is often given freely which reduces its effectiveness when we are trying to motivate our puppies to learn (unless they are in the mood for praise!) Obviously the food is the main motivator for most dogs. However using praise and food alone reduces the effectiveness of what we are trying to teach our puppies. This is because they switch off to the sound of our voices and it is not very good at accurately pin pointing what we are trying to reinforce. 

In a class with everyone clicking you might think the dogs would get confused. It actually teaches your dog to focus on you because they realise you have the treats!

The click of the clicker is an event marker. It tells your dog that the moment your dog hears the click is the moment we are rewarding them for. (Dogs learn this connection very quickly for the same reason that Pavlov’s dogs learnt the sound of the bell indicated food) We can very quickly for example with the sit exercise teach your dogs to wait for the click and in this way we can very quickly teach them impulse control and focus while they wait for the click. (Which is extended for up to 30 seconds very quickly) 

I find that puppies that are clicker trained become calmer and more focused quicker than their counterparts and can be switched from excitability to calm very easily with a small amount of training (useful for puppy biting) 

The clicker is used for short little training sessions throughout the day (a few minute at a time) Once your puppy starts becoming reliable with their exercises the clicker naturally fades out. If you forget to use the clicker it is fine however if training lapses it is fine to reintroduce it at any time.

In the meantime we use praise and treats as well, which is what you are left with once you stop using the clicker

It's consistency with whoever is using it is part of it's effectiveness and we find that breeds that don't do so well with traditional methods of training respond very well once we build on their motivation. For that reason we try to make training a game that is fun for you and your dog.

In class we discourage any telling off, it is all positive reinforcement. For example for play biting the aim is to be very consistent with your puppy. Teach him or her that if she is calm she gets much more attention than if she bites. Lots of distractions with toys and no rough play with hands!

One of the disadvantages of clicker is that we can be lulled into thinking our puppies are fully trained, they learn so quickly! It does take time to create realiability but in the meantime it does mean you can communicate clearly and build a positive relationship with your dog as you learn together!


© Karen England2015

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I have been meaning to email you for ages to say how absolutely fantastic the classes you offer were. I have been scanning your website to see whether you were going to do the Bronze Kennel Club Award but nothing came up so I ended up doing it with a local club.... and shall I tell you something... your classes... your organisation.... the tasks you get the dogs to do.... your manner... not to mention other numerous qualities by far, and I mean by far supersedes what I have recently experienced. I honestly don't think I have learnt anything new in the last 8 weeks. Anyway Karen many thanks for everything you provided Tilly with in those sessions...they were just fab...thank you so much...please keep me informed should you be offering any other courses as I would be very interested.

Owner of Tilly a Chocolate Lab

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