Hello again, fellow dog moms and dads! If you’re like me, you’ve probably tried clicker training at some point with your dog. If you’re really like me, you may have not had much success.
Instead of pronouncing it doesn’t work, we decided to take a closer look. Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it, right?
A lot of dog trainers and dog owners are really successful with it so we wanted to understand it better. Today we’re going to take a look at how clicker training works. Next we’ll show you 4 possible reasons clicker training isn’t working for you.
Are you ready to learn more about clicker training?
Good! Let’s go!
Clicker training is the use of a sound producing item to let your dog know when they have done a behavior correctly.
Karen Pryor, one of the leading trainers of the method, used it for training dolphins.
Jumping through hoops is not exactly a behavior that you could force or coerce a dolphin to do, right? And it’s a bit challenging to reward the dolphin the moment it jumps through the hoop.
Because of these factors, Pryor started using a whistle to let the dolphins know that it was the action of jumping that they were doing right… and that there was a treat coming up for a job well done.
Nowadays, clicker training is being used by dog trainers, but with a clicker instead of a whistle. Whistles are generally known in dog training circles as a means of command (or some sort of deterrent for bad behavior) rather than indicators of good behaviors, so instead we use clickers.
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As you may guess, clickers make a sharp click sound that is very distinct and brings the message across quite clearly.
Basically, you use the clicker the moment that your dog is doing the behavior you want him to do. This can be preceded by a verbal command like “Sit”, “Roll Over”, “Down”, and so on to prompt the behavior. While your dog is in the process of doing the respective behavior, you click.
Note: you don’t click after the behavior is done. You click during.
Then, you reward immediately after the click. So basically, the click sound lets your dog know that “Yes, you’re doing the right thing, and here’s a reward coming up for that!”
Remember how we discussed how dogs learn and one of those means is by operant conditioning?
Quick recap, operant conditioning works by rewarding good behavior in order for your dog to be motivated to repeat the behavior again and again.
Clicker training is a rewards-based, positive training method, which means that it has a GoodDoggies.Online seal of approval because it’s not punishment-based.
There’s also a hint of classical conditioning at work with the association and establishment of the clicking sound with the upcoming reward. But the main driving force of why clicker training is an effective method is because of the basics of operant conditioning.
Good click behavior = reward. See? Operant conditioning in all its glory.
While we’re not claiming that clicker training works 100% of the time for everyone who tries it, a lot of dog trainers do stand by its credibility. And if it doesn’t work for you, then there are several reasons as to why that may be.
Take note that timing is everything when it comes to clicker training. It is vital that you time the clicks exactly as your dog is doing the behavior, not too soon and not a second later. Remember, the click lets them know what it is exactly you’re rewarding them for. To amend this, you can start off by training your own reflexes first, and not with your dog. You’ll only end up confusing them if you keep on messing up the timing.
While you can use your dog’s regular kibble to start clicker training with them, the general rule is that the more complicated the behavior you’re trying to teach them, the better the reward has to be. So up your treat game. Make each reward tastier and tastier as you progress to more tricky stuff. Your dog has to be motivated with the reward you’re offering.
This just means that your dog isn’t motivated with the reward, no matter how appealing you make it to be. For example, doing a training session right after eating may mean that your dog is less likely to aim to please for treats because he’s full. Or your dog is not that interested in food. When this happens, you can try experimenting with different rewards to see what makes your dog tick (verbal and physical praise, a quick game of fetch, a toy, etc.
Clicker training requires time and effort on your part. It can be quite tricky because it requires you to have good hand eye coordination and quick reflexes, so if you can’t afford to put in the required time and effort to make yourself better equipped, then it’s likely that it will not reflect well on your dog either.
If at the end of the day you’ve worked on all of these things and it still seems like clicker training is not the answer to your needs, then you can stick to the basics of positive dog training. It works just as well, and if in the future you get the time to work on your clicker training technique, then you can use both to train your dog.
Here’s a quick video to help you improve your clicker training methods, some tips to help you get started, as well as to further inform you about this type of training.
Clicker training is one of the leading methods of dog training, and with its rewards-based workings accompanied by a little classical conditioning, it’s not very hard to see why.
But while a lot of dog trainers sing praises for this training method, there are still some who opt not to use it or those who claim that it does not work for them. We discussed to you the possible reasons clicker training isn’t working for you, and hope you gained some insight on that matter.
We suggest that you use the methods that are best suited for your dog, and that varies from dog to dog and from trainer to trainer.
So if clicker training is a good option for you, congratulations, now you know more about it!
And if it isn’t, that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with your dog or you.. Maybe something else works better for you and your pooch, the key is to just keep trying and interacting with your dog. You’ll both be better for it!