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Dog Clicker Training

Your guide to Clicker Dog Training

"Clicker training" is a slang term used by trainers to describe an exciting new method of training animals. It’s become increasingly popular in the last decade because of its gentle hands-off approach to dog training using positive reinforcement to reward your dog for a desired behavior.

In the same way they teach dolphins with a whistle and fish clicker training uses a clicker device and a treat. Clicker training is a fun all-positive method that works for dogs of all breeds.

Clicker training is based on a proven scientific principle called operant conditioning. It’s easy to learn, easy to do, and it works without the delays, frustrations, and all too frequent potential for abuse inherent in many traditional training methods.

Operant conditioning is the way any animal interacts with and learns from its environment. All animals tend to repeat an action that has a positive consequence and tend not to repeat one that has a negative consequence.

Dog owners can take advantage of that natural tendency by providing positive reinforcement following an action that they want their dog to repeat. In order for your dog to connect the positive reinforcement to the behavior that he is doing, the reinforcement must happen as the behavior is occurring, not afterwards.

Unfortunately, the positive reinforcement can’t always be given to your dog at that precise instant. Therefore, you’ll need to find another way of letting him know that he was doing the right thing, so you begin to use a conditioned reinforcer.

A conditioned reinforcer is anything that wouldn’t ordinarily be something your dog would work to get. A primary reinforcer on the other hand, is something your dog automatically finds reinforcing, such as food or water. When a conditioned reinforcer is paired with a primary reinforcer, they become of equal importance to the animal.

Enter the clicker as a conditioned reinforcer!

This is just a device that makes a clicking sound when pressed, usually a plastic holder, with a bit of metal inside, and a way to push on it to get it to click. These inexpensive little devices are increasingly available at pet supply stores, but if you can’t find one in your local area, try asking your veterinarian or looking on the internet. As more and more people discover clicker training, they will become more widely available.

Clickers make a sharp, clicking sound when pushed and released. Its value is that the unique sound doesn’t get lost in the babble of words we are constantly throwing at our dogs. It is faster than saying "Good dog!" and allows the owner to mark with great precision the behavior for which the dog is being reinforced.

More on clicker training

Click and Treat (C&T or C/T)

Treats

Getting Started

Advanced Lessons

Problem Behaviors

The Bottom Line

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