INTRODUCTION TO CLICKER TRAINING
Clicker training is easy to do! Clicker training is easy and fun for your dog to do too! But…clicker training is also EASY TO DO WRONG! So perfecting your skills with guidance from a qualified and experienced clicker is very important!! This handout is meant to be an introduction to prepare you to meet with your clicker trainer.
The clicker is used like a camera taking a snapshot to MARK the precise moment in time your dog does a behavior you like and would want your dog to repeat and do more. The click is also a promise to your dog that says a very tasty food reward is coming. Your dog will soon love the challenge of trying to figure out how to make that clicker CLICK more!
If you don’t have your clicker handy you can still “mark” a behavior with a cluck with your tongue, or even a word such as “yes” or “good”. If using a different marker sound it should be a clear concise sound that the dog will clearly recognize!
A clicker should NOT be used to get your dog’s attention. It is easy to mistake it for a remote control but it must not be used that way. Remember, the click always comes AFTER your dog does a behavior, NOT to cue your dog to do the behavior. Watch for the behavior you want, click when you see it! Then after the click, give the reward!
BEFORE STARTING, PLEASE REVIEW THE FOLLOWING:
What is Clicker Training? A nice thorough explanation
GETTING STARTED WITH CLICKER TRAINING:
Step One: Introducing your dog to the SOUND of the Clicker or “Warming up the Clicker” before each training session. Following these easy steps will build confidence as he learns the “clicker game”.
- Begin in a quiet area of your home, with your treat bag containing 10 special treats.
- With the clicker in one hand held at your side, click the clicker
- Reach in your treat bag with your other hand.
- Feed one treat after the click.
- Repeat the sequence until all 10 treats are gone.
- Your dog is learning the association of CLICK = TREAT
- Try not to point the clicker at the dog–‐ it is not a remote control device!
Step Two: Use the sound of the click to “MARK” a specific behavior you like.
Marking the behavior is just like taking a picture of the behavior by snapping the camera.
For example, you will be reinforcing a SIT by doing the following:
- Wait for your dog to SIT.
- As soon as his hind end touches the floor CLICK!
- Immediately TREAT!
- In your dog’s mind, the sound of the click means a treat is coming, and whatever behavior your dog is doing when he hears the click, he will more likely repeat in order to earn more treats.
- Keep sessions short and highly rewarding, (1–‐3 minutes)
- Put a NAME to the behavior you click AFTER you start seeing the dog beginning to offer it in anticipation of the click and treat.
- Words are kept to a minimum in clicker training.
- “Capture” the behavior first with your clicker.
- When your dog starts doing it well, then start adding the cue word or name just as your dog begins to do the behavior.
Clicker training mechanics and timing, just like driving a car, a newly learned skill improves with proper practice. It is best to begin without your dog for a couple of sessions.
- Enlist the help of a family member or friend who can be your “dog” or simply practice in front of a mirror.
- Or practice while watching the news. Pick a word to CLICK every time you hear it. Pick words that will commonly be spoken during the news program such as “The” or “Weather”. Then practice your observation and timing skills by clicking every time you hear your chosen. Timing is everything in clicker training!
Here are some helpful tips to get you started!
- The sequence is: behavior–CLICK–reach for treat–deliver treat
- Don’t CLICK before the behavior happens or point the clicker at your dog.
- Remember the clicker is not a remote control or a cue for your dog to do something!
- Keep your treat hand still until after the click.
- Keep the treats in a treat bag, pocket, or carpenters apron, not in your hand — we want the dog to focus on the behavior not the food.
- The location of the treat delivery should be planned before starting the session.
- Where the treat lands can help the dog set up for the next repetition.
- Always follow the click with a treat. One click=One treat.
- If you make a mistake and click, the dog still gets the treat!
- If your dog makes a mistake (offers a behavior you are not seeking) simply don’t click and wait for your dog to try again. We want to encourage your dog to be an active learner and thinker!
- Do not say “no” or “eh–eh” or “wrong”.
- The absence of the click gives the dog the message to try again.
- Smile at your dog! This should be a happy game, not a stressful session.
- NOTE: The word YES or GOOD may be used in place of the CLICK to mark the behaviors. However, it is not as effective as the sound of the CLICK because our voices can be loaded with emotion making the training process take longer. The CLICK always sounds the same, setting the dog up for success
Target Training is one of the most useful Clicker trained behaviors.
It is a great clicker technique to redirect your dog away from things that cause over arousal, fear, or lead to aggressive behavior. It can also be used in many other ways including recall training, fun trick training and to teach dogs to enjoy body handling and vet care.
Here are some great videos that illustrate the technique. Notice the different ways the trainers offers their hands as a target. Notice how the click marks the behavior and it always signals a treat is about to come. The videos will illustrate how simple this is to do.