Clicker training your dog
The familiarity and interest in clicker training is mainly due to the American, Karen Pryor. She's written many books about this particular training method, previously it was mainly used in dolphin training. Clicker training cannot therefore be seen as a new invention, but has been known since the 1930s.
How does clicker training work?
Clicker training means that you use some kind of reward signal when training your dog, it can be a word such as "yes" or a clicking sound from a clicker. The reward signal tells the dog that it got it right and the reward is on its way. A clicker is a small box with a button on it, when you press the button it makes a clicking sound. They are available in slightly different variants and volume levels.
Click and reward when the dog does the right thing
Before you start training, you need to teach your dog that the reward signal "click" means that the reward is on its way, this is called clicking the dog. If you have a food-loving dog, it is easy to work with dog treats, think about using really small pieces as you click many times during a session.
When you teach your dog that "click" means reward, the dog does not have to perform anything. Start in a calm environment, have your dog in front of you and the reward ready. Click and give the dog a treat immediately afterwards. After you repeat it a couple of times, the dog begins to understand that the clicking sound means treats. When the dog has made that connection, you are ready to start training.
Start clicking for something the dog already knows
A good first step is to click for something the dog already knows, for example "sit" or "lay". Then you get to train yourself to click at the right moment, exactly when the dog does what you want. When it works well, you can move on and teach your dog a whole new behavior.
Useful in many different situations
Clicker training is very useful and you can use it in several different ways, for example teaching your dog everyday obedience, tricks or training dog encounters. It works best at close quarters where the dog can hear the signal. When you have taught your dog a moment, you can put a signal on it, for example "beautiful paw". When your dog is able to do it when you ask it, you don't need to reinforce by clicking, then it's enough to reward the dog as usual.
Help or figure it out yourself?
There are many different ways to teach your dog new things, one way is to help the dog in the right direction by, for example, enticing with a treat. When the dog is on the right track, you click and reward, from there you can then gradually teach the dog the behaviour you want.
You can also use clicker training and let your dog figure things out on its own and independently test what you want it to do. It is the same principle as before where you click and reward the dog when it is on the right track but let it test itself.
Advantages of clicker training
- Clear - the click sounds the same every time, which also creates security
- Facilitates timing - it is difficult to reward your dog at exactly the right moment, with the help of clickers it becomes easier
- Strengthens the dog's self-confidence - when the dog tests itself and succeeds!
- Lots of fun – dog training isn't always easy, but once you and your dog get the hang of the concept, you'll have a lot of fun together
- Strengthens the relationship - when you practice, you build a language and a way of communicating
- All dogs can be trained with clickers - from puppy to senior!
Some things to consider when clicker training
- Use short sessions - take lots of breaks
- Treat using small pieces
- Train yourself to click at the right moment
- Have a plan before you start
- Use clickers for new learning - when your dog knows the behaviour on signal, you don't need to click anymore, then it's enough to reward as usual.
Before you start training, it is important to be well-educated so that you get it right from the start, search for information online, read in books or take a course on the topic.
About the Author
The article is written by Fanny Modig who is an instructor, dog psychologist and communicator. In recent years, she has held courses in everyday obedience, puppy training, stimulation and worked investigating problems. On her blog 'Living with Dogs', she writes about her own experiences and gives concrete tips about dog training. She has also recorded the podcast Hundpodden with Kicki & Fanny for five seasons. Fanny trained as an instructor and dog psychologist at Hundens Hus in Stockholm and she has a degree in Work Life Communication from Stockholm University.More articles from Fanny Modig
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