What is clicker training for dogs?
Clicker training is a positive reinforcement dog training method. It was developed in the 40s to train dolphins and whales, and then used with canines.
Also called mark and reward training, it is a form of positive reinforcement after our dog performs a desirable behavior. The dog is rewarded with a treat after the clicker, a tool similar to a whistle, a metal strip inside a box that makes a distinct click, is pressed.
In this way, the dog learns to associate the sequence: Voice command – correct behavior – click – treat.
Clicker training in dogs is therefore one step further in the traditional training stages, complementing the desirable behavior and the treat for the dog.
According to clicker training advocates, it is a really effective training technique, because by associating the click sound to the treat, dogs learn faster what we want from them.
But, Is Clicker Training that Easy to Implement?
First, you must make sure the dog pays attention to the sound emitted by the clicker.
To achieve this, you may go on with the training, teaching your 4-legged friend different commands, like sitting down, lying down, giving you a paw, or returning an object. As you press the clicker at the exact moment in which the dog is performing the action, you must give it the treat.
However, we must consider that the click is just a signal preceding the reward, and it must not be confused with the reward itself, which is the real reason why the dog performs a certain action.
The clicker allows owners to be timely and accurate in order to reinforce a behavior. Unlike what happens with traditional training methods, clicker training allows us to pinpoint the exact moment the dog has done something that deserves a reward instead of taking too long from the moment the dog has performed the desirable action until it receives its reward. Meanwhile, it may have changed its behavior or the correct position, and we would end up rewarding an action we do not want.
With the clicker, the dog will unequivocally know it is doing something right in the exact moment it is doing it.
Clicker Training for Dogs: Negative Aspects
Not everything that shines is gold… Despite some people deeply believing in the effectiveness of clicker training in dogs, some do not recommend it.
- First of all, because when you press the clicker you have to be really precise: if you are not an expert, or a good observer, you risk “clicking” at the wrong moment, which may end up reinforcing undesirable behavior. Therefore, this tool must only be used by professional trainers, or at least under the supervision of specialized staff.
- Secondly, if the clicker is used too often, the dog runs the risk of not performing various commands, if they are not followed by the sound signal. For this reason, reducing the use of this device is necessary, so the dog is able to associate the trainer´s voice command (not the click) with the learned action or position.
Clicker Training for Dogs: Undesirable Effects
People opposing this method claim that, above all, dog clickers may deviate the dog’s attention from its trainer, who should always remain at the center. This is due to the fact that the dog must perform the necessary behavior mainly to please its teacher or trainer, achieving in this way a fun and effective training.
For this reason, the relationship between the owner and the dog must remain always as priority number 1, while with clicker training there is always the danger of everything coming down to a mere mechanical conditioning, exclusively aimed to obtain a food reward.
If you have more doubts, you may consult a professional near your house, who will provide you with the best service and answer all your questions.
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