clicker1 Clicker Training clicker2

Clicker training, what is it?

I'll tell you it is the best way to train. You will love it, your dog/animal will love it. No stress, no yelling and your dogs learns to do what you want. If you make a mistake, no big deal it won't hurt the dog or his training. My dogs get very excited when I get the clicker out. They love clicker training and usually get upset and whine when it is not their turn. My previous dogs never did that when I was training.

I will try and give you a taste of what clicker training is all about. Please look at the links I have below. There you will find the answers to most of your questions and you will be able to ask more knowledgeable people than myself. I'm still learning, but it is a whole lot of fun.

The reason dogs like clicker training, in my opinion, is because they feel like they are in control and they are told precisely when they do something right. The clicker makes a short distinctive sound. The dogs quickly learn to associate the click with getting something they want (food, toys, attention). The the dogs learn that they can control when you click by their actions. Most importantly, the dogs find their actions will cause the click which ultimately gets them something wonderful. It also allows you to separate the food/toy with the behavior you want.

An example, your dog does a behavior you have been working with. So you click, but guess what. You don't have any treats. So you walk over to where the dog treats are and give your dog the treat. The dogs knows why he got the treat, with other training methods the dog would have no idea why he just got a treat.

"But my dog is never going to work for a click. I know my dog."

Yes, that is what you are thinking. But wait. The dog isn't working for the click. He is working for the reward. The click just signals that he is going to get a reward. One rule of clicker training is if you click, then you reward, even if you messed up and didn't mean to click.

The best thing about clicker training is the dog learns so much faster then with traditional training. The toughest part is having the patience to wait for the dog to do what you want. It is going to seem like your dog takes forever, but it really doesn't it just seems that way. And in the end the dog learns better and faster.

In traditional training you give the dog a vague idea of how to do something, push down on the dog's butt to make them sit. Then when the trainer thinks the dog understands, the trainer starts giving collar jerks when the dog is wrong. And the jerks stop when the dog does something right, and maybe a "good boy" in the beginning. This is how you can get a dog that can heel perfectly on the leash, but take the leash off and they have no idea where they are supposed to be. They never learned how to heel, just how to avoid the collar jerks. Plus, the dog probably doesn't really enjoy training. Luckily for us, dogs are pretty tolerant of these methods, and if food and lots of praise is thrown in it can work. It will work even better when the trainer can read when the dog truly understands what is wanted. But it is a trial and error process where wrong answers get something unpleasant happening to you. And lets face it, owners don't like jerking on their dogs anymore than dog like the jerking.

Now, clicker training is different. It is still a trial and error process, probably even more so than traditional methods. But the big difference is you tell the dog when they do something right, and ignore when they do it wrong. Also, the clicker allows you to communicate with the dog in a precise manner. The clicker is held in your hand and you click at the precise moment when the dog does something you want. Not after they finish it, but as they are doing it. The reason the clicker is better than using your voice is that your hand is quicker than your voice. Here is an example, when lose your balance, your body starts trying to correct the situation way before you can say "ahhhhh." Another thing is you get in a habit of doing something and you don't even have to think about it after a while you just do it. Just think of using the turn indicator on your car, or a better one is shifting the gears in a manual car (stick shift). Or you drop something and your arm tries to catch it. You don't think about it, you just do it. So after a while, you don't have to think about clicking the clicker when you see your dog doing something right, you just do it. Also the clicker has a very short distinctive sound. And we all know how fast a dog can move, so you need a short sound to capture the correct action. But using your voice requires just a couple more milliseconds to get the thought of what you want to say to your mouth. Then it may be too late.

The toy clickers can be bought on line, and I heard they might be in some of the big chain pet stores. If you can't find one, use a pen. Use the kind where you press down on the top and the pen tip comes out of the pen. It will make a good click sound.

There is a lot more to clicker training. Sometimes the jargon can throw you for a loop, but keep at it. Below are some great clicker links where you can learn tons more. Look at the keeper pages to find out how to discourage undesirable behavior. There are some great articles.

Wonderful clicker trainer with training tips that are keepers
Karen Pryor, famous clicker trainer - Great for buying clicker training material
Gary Wiles - another famous clicker trainer
Click-L Home of the Clicker Training Email List
A quick Introduction to Clicker Training
Clicker Train Home Page
Clicker Train FAQ
Wonderful St. Bernard Rescue page all about clicker training.
Clicker training your horse

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Copyright © 2000 Anne Macmillan All Rights Reserved
written 12/02/00
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