Clicker training: You need a clicker & treats
How to clicker train
You need to start with “charging” the clicker, and then, once your dog understands its meaning, you can use it to mark desired behaviours.
To “charge” the clicker is to teach the dog to that a treat follows a click, click and treat, and repeat several times in a row. Don’t care what your dog is doing when you are clicking as long he isn’t misbehaving. At the moment, you are not rewarding any particular actions you are just teaching him that a reward follows every click. After about 10 repetitions, you may notice how, upon hearing the click, your dog turns his head to look for his treat. Great, it means your dog has learned to associate the click with a treat.
Capture spontaneous behaviours
For instance, if you want to train your dog to lie down, keep your clicker handy and click and give him a treat every time he lies down spontaneously. Repeat several times, wait for your dog to get tired and lie down, then click and reward.
After several repetitions, you can begin putting the behaviour on cue by saying “down” just as your dog goes to lie down, followed immediately by a click and when he completes the motion, reward. With time, your dog will learn the new word and will lie down whenever you say “down”.
Shaping is the process by which you gradually teach your dog a new action or conduct by rewarding him during each step of the learning process. In this way, you can break up a potentially complicated action into smaller parts that your dog will learn and understand more quickly.
For instance, you want to teach your dog to retrieve a ball. Start to click and reward as soon the dog touch the ball with his nose. Then when he touches the ball on the ground and after when he moves the ball on the ground after you have thrown it. You gradually build up the association until your dog follows the ball you have thrown, fetches it and brings it back to you.
Do you have problems with the clicker training?
It may take some time to master clicker training. One of the most common issues is timing. Remember, you get what you click for, being a bit late in clicking can mean that you get the wrong behaviour. For instance, instead of getting the dog to sit, he thinks you reward him for getting up from the sit. Make sure you click the exact moment the desired behaviour occurs. Another mistake is that the dog gets distracted with the sight of the clicker and treats. You better keep the treats in a bag or pocket. And the clicker by your side or behind your back. Never point your clicker towards your dog; it can distract or even scare him.
Finally, another common mistake is that you forget to treat after clicking. If you fail to give a treat, it will weaken the effect of the clicker.
Do I always have to carry a clicker and treats?
No, clicker training is an excellent way of motivating dogs to learn new things such as actions and behaviours. You can use it to mark a change of mood or a good choice your dog makes. Once your dog is skilled at whatever action you taught him or behaviour he has chosen, the clicker can be faded out and used again when teaching your dog something new. Or why not teach him some cool tricks when you master the basics of clicker training.
If you want to learn more about clicker training, Adrienna Faricelli will cover the subject amongst many others in the excellent course – Brain Training For Dogs