Clicker training is an exciting complement to training and a useful tool for instilling good behaviors. It can be used alongside traditional positive reinforcement training methods. It can also be used to help shape or train complicated behaviors by helping guide your dog in the right direction. However, there are some misconceptions about how to use a clicker when training. Read on to learn more about this great tool, and some of the common myths surrounding it!
What is Clicker Training?
Clicker training is the use of a clicker to denote when your dog (or cat, or even chicken!) has done something correctly. The clicker takes the place of a praise word such as “good boy”. It also denotes that a treat is about to come to reward the correct behavior. Clickers are great as they are consistent, easily recognized sounds that make training a breeze.
Clicker training can also be used for “shaping” complex behaviors. This is done by encouraging your dog to do something similar to what you want, and then clicking when he is close to the right behavior for a few steps. You then encourage him to try more and click again when he is closer, sort of like a game of Hot and Cold. While it sounds complicated, seeing it in practice makes it easy to understand.
Myth 1: The Click Gives a Command
Clickers are used to let your dog know they have completed a command with success, but they are not what tells your dog to do it. You can’t click to have your dog sit, stay, lay down, etc. Instead, you will give your dog a command as usual, and once they have completed it, click and then give a treat. Clickers let your dog anticipate the upcoming reward.
Myth 2: The Click is Used in Place of a Treat
Clickers are also NOT the reward for the behavior, but the signal that a reward is coming. When starting out, owners and trainers will “prime” the clicker, by simply clicking it and giving a treat immediately after. This helps your dog associate the click with the upcoming reward, so when you use it for training he will understand he was successful.
Myth 3: Clickers Can Be Used to Stop a Behavior
Clickers don’t give commands, or rewards, and they can’t stop a behavior either. However, shaping new behaviors through clicker training can help deter and stop bad behaviors by shaping them into wanted ones. For example, a barking dog may be trained to bark on command instead, and thus bark less when a reward isn’t involved.
Clicker training may seem complicated. It may even seem unneeded as owners can just use a praise word in place of a click. However, for those wanting to teach beyond the basics, a clicker is a great way to teach more complex behaviors without having to learn a new system of training. It is also a great way to keep your dog focused. It helps him learn he is doing the right thing with consistency. If you’re curious, ask your trainer about clicker training, you may just love it!
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