What Is Clicker Training?
Click-click – treat. Click-click – treat.
The basis of clicker training for dogs is reinforcement of positive behavior. This training method with the help of a small device called a clicker is highly effective and simple at the same time. Through it, the dog learns which of its actions are desired. Whether it’s for basic puppy training, learning tricks and tricks, training away unwanted behavior patterns, or even to gain access to shy or behaviorally challenged dogs, the clicker is a true all-rounder.
Clicker training is also used in high performance canine areas, such as training for drug, mine detection or guide dogs.
Clicker Training For Cat, Rabbit, Horse
How did one come up with the idea of rewarding an animal with a sound instead of a treat? If you think that clicker training is a new training method and is used exclusively for dogs, you are wrong:
Even though the experiment was first conducted with dogs, clicker training is used with cats and all sorts of other animal species. In addition to cats, it is now also used for rodents, horses, birds and even fish to reinforce desired behavior patterns. Even during the Cold War, ravens were trained to fly over certain areas with cameras, or dolphins completed underwater missions.
Conditioning – From Increased Salivation To A Universal Training Method
The origin of clicker training lies in behavioral psychology. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov noticed through observation that in kennel dogs, the owner’s footsteps caused a strong flow of saliva, even though there was no food in sight. Thus he came to the assumption that the dogs associate the sound of the steps with feeding.
The Pavlovian Dog
Pavlov knew that, in general, the sight of food causes increased salivation in dogs. The simple ringing of a bell, did not cause any reaction on the part of the dog. After he rang the bell several times and gave the dog food at the same time, he noticed that now the ringing of the bell alone, without feeding, caused increased salivation.
The Principle Of The Clickertrainings
The basic idea of clicker training is not to bribe with food, but to reward your dog for dealing with situations. Clicker training also ensures a closer and better relationship between dog and owner in the long run.
Before conditioning, the “click” sound has no meaning to the dog and he cannot associate it. However, if you make sure that your dog associates the click with a positive experience – in this case, a treat – the foundation for fast and effective training is in place.
In addition, you can now “push a button” to make your dog feel good.
If the dog is feeling bad and expresses fear or insecurity through a certain behavior, you can counteract these negative emotions and make him feel better with the click of a button. The emotional counter-conditioning now also makes it easier to learn an alternative behavior in the unpleasant situation.
Important in clicker training is that you act quickly, because dogs can only assign in the first second after an action, which behavior was now good and right.
That’s why you have to be quick with the reward, and while you’re looking for the bag of treats, your dog has long since stopped doing what you actually wanted to reward him for…
Conditioning With The Clicker – Step By Step
Now the clicker comes into play, because you can reward your dog not only with treats, but also with a sound.
- About 10 treats, preferably his favorite kind, which should be small and easy to swallow.
- A clicker, of course it also works with another sound source, such as a bell or bell.
If you don’t have anything like that at hand, it also works with a whistle or a snap.
Clicker Training – How It Works
1. Step: The preparation
Take some treats in one hand and the clicker in the other. Immediately after you have clicked, give your dog a treat.
2. Step: The link
Make sure that you are not always in the same position and repeat step 1 about 5-10 times. When your dog understands that the treat is associated with the “click” sound, you can move on.
3. Step: The consolidation
Wait until your dog’s concentration is no longer on you and only then click. If your dog now looks at you expectantly, then the conditioning has worked – congratulations! The foundation for successful training and education is now in place.
Sit, Down, Paw, Roll, Heel – The Possibilities Are Endless
Good things take time – this applies to both sides. The dog must first get used to this new training method. You have to learn the right timing and have your hands full with a clicker in one hand and treats in the other. The tables are now turned: the dog has to be creative and act on his own initiative, while we just react to his action. If treats were previously used only as a “lure method” or worked more with corrections and punishments, the dog must also change in this regard.
Tricks And Tips For Complete Success
- Depending on the dog, the conditioning will take longer or shorter. If your dog doesn’t get it after 10 treats, take your time (and just give him a few more treats).
- Start with easy exercises and increase both of you. Why have too high expectations right away and end up frustrated when things don’t go as expected?
- A successful start offers the best conditions for later, more complicated exercises.
- Especially when learning new tricks, it is advisable to do this in a calm and familiar environment, so that your dog is not distracted.
- Train in several small sessions throughout the day, rather than one long session.
- If your dog succeeds only 1-2 times out of five exercises, try to change your training method a bit and divide it into smaller steps – the success rate should be high when learning new tricks.
As soon as an exercise really works very well, you can of course use a “main prize” as a reward at the end. However, reward is not reward: you know best what you can make your dog really happy with, be it the beloved bone, a piece of sausage or a certain toy.
Since your darling doesn’t know when it will get the main prize, it will make an effort to get better every time.
1. Since the starting position is lying down, bring your dog to the command place.
2. Take a treat in your hand and bring his head back sideways, so that he puts his hind end sideways.
3. As soon as he follows your hand with his snout, reward him with a “Click”.
4. When this has worked successfully several times, get him to turn onto his back and then further to the other side. Immediately reward him again with the clicker and treats.
5. Now you introduce a command word of your choice, for example “roll”. Say this at the beginning of the exercise and reward him with the clicker and a treat for rolling over his back.
6. It may take a few repetitions until the dog can associate the command with the exercise.
7. You can also try to slowly build up distance so that he can do the command from a distance. To do this, slowly change your position from crouching to standing and move a few meters away – this also takes time and a few repetitions.
8. As a next step, you can also introduce a hand signal, which you execute at the same time as the command, for example an extended finger, which indicates a turn.
And What About Punishment For Negative Behavior?
How you behave is a matter of the consequences you have experienced for your behavior. As mentioned earlier, the foundation of clicker training is reinforcement of positive behavior. If you reward a dog’s positive behavior, he will remember it and show it again.
This is done without any correction and negative behavior is disregarded.
Now, one might assume that training with immediate reward will also work with immediate punishment, and thus negative behavior will never occur again.
Theoretically, this is possible: perhaps you have also grabbed the hot stove top as a child and had to painfully realize that this was not such a good idea. Probably quite a memorable experience that led you to never do it again.
Effective Punishment Does Not Work
With dogs, however, it’s a little different, because to really punish effectively, you would have to react immediately and punish the behavior severely every time. Even then, it’s not entirely certain that your dog understands why he’s being punished.
Apart from the fact that it is no fun for either side, it can also result in your dog associating the wrong actions with the punishment and he becomes completely unsettled.
Much more pleasant, effective and fun for both dog and human is simply rewarding a good and desired behavior immediately. Moreover, dogs that are not afraid of making mistakes are more willing to learn. They become a thinking training partner who has to figure out a solution on their own and enjoys learning new things.
There are some exercises to increase your dog’s grey matter and creativity. The 101 things box is perfect for harnessing your dog’s curiosity and encouraging him to be creative. A regular cardboard box, crate, or any other object that is multifunctional works well for this.
The dog is rewarded for each of his actions, be it a simple nudge, push around, sniff, jump in. The purpose of this exercise is to make the dog understand that creativity pays off.
If conditioning with the clicker works well and the dog knows that creativity pays off, the basis for many forms of training is created, such as the Trickdogging or target training. Target is the English word for “goal”, and so this type of training involves the use of a target object that the dog is supposed to touch with its muzzle. You can get very creative with the choice of the target object: The most common is a stick with a ball at the tip – a fly swatter, a wooden spoon or a hand will do as well. The main thing is that the object does not pose a risk of injury to the dog.
Target training – Step By Step:
1. You take the clicker and your target object of choice in one hand and treats in the other. The target is hidden behind your back and shown to the dog only when you are ready to click and reward
2. Use the dog’s curiosity: As soon as he is interested in the object, a “click” and a treat follow. While the dog is still busy eating, take the target behind your back and present it to the dog.
Behind your back and present it to him again. First looks and head turns in the direction of the target are also rewarded and you repeat it 10-15 times.
3. Gradually you can ask your dog to think a little more. He looks at the target, but does not touch it yet? Just wait a bit and see what he does.
Probably he will react demanding, because he expects his reward. As soon as he turns a little more towards the target, another “click” will follow. The dog understands that he has to get a little closer.
4. Now the dog only clicks when his muzzle is in the immediate vicinity of the object.
5. If your dog shows this action several times, you can only click when the nose really touches the object.
6. Vary the position of the object so that your dog has to stretch or bend down to touch it with the snout.
7. You can also introduce a signal word or command for nudging later, for example “nudge“.
What Are The Benefits Of Pinning My Dog To An Object?
- The dog can be guided by moving the object, for example through a slalom course.
- You can practice “heel” walking.
- Tricks can be practiced, such as “man up” or walking on the hind legs.
- You can transfer the object to other objects and teach the dog to turn a light switch on and off.