Clicker Dog Training

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Clicker Dog Training

by Rodrigo Trigosso

Developed a long time ago, this is the same technique used to train dolphins (although using whistles instead of clickers) and other captive animals.

Clicker dog training is an amazing technique. It is easy, fast and mainly based on positive reinforcement. As a result, clicker training is becoming one of the most popular techniques to train dogs.

Actually, you don't need a clicker in clicker dog training, but having one is very helpful. A clicker is a small device that makes a fun click-click sound when you press on it.

How does clicker training work?

Clicker dog training is based on both classical and operant conditioning.

First, your dog must associate the sound of the clicker with something pleasant (typically a food treat). This is the classical conditioning part.

Then, you should click (press the clicker to make the sound) and reward your dog each time he performs a desired behavior. This is the operant conditioning part.

Why click before giving a reward? Why not only give the reward? Because the click marks the exact moment your dog performs the desired behavior. So, you can tell your dog which behavior is the rewarded one, even if you are not near him.

Pros of clicker dog training

During the learning stage, your dog will behave by purpose. This will encourage him to learn new behaviors. Additionally, purposeful learning lasts longer than non purposeful learning.

Clicker dog training allows your dog to have some control over the consequences of his behavior. As a result, clicker training can increase his self confidence.

Clicker training is perhaps the fastest dog training technique. It's also fun and easy to carry out.

You don't have to manipulate your dog in any physical way. This prevents unintentional violence.

Since there's no need to pop on a leash, you don't have to retrain obedience exercises off leash. In clicker training every command is trained as an off-leash exercise because there are no physical corrections.

This technique is also ideal to teach behaviors that you cannot force in your dog. For instance, you can teach your dog to yawn on command (not very useful trick.)

Finally, clicker training has been developed under scientific principles. Although some people could think this advantage is solely theoretical, you should take into account that the technique has been experimentally tested by dudes that earn their lives looking for errors of every theory... that is, scientists.

Cons of clicker dog training

When properly done, clicker dog training has no disadvantages. However, some people stops training at initial stages because they achieve early results. This is a common mistake among people who never owned a highly trained dog.

You should be aware that reliability and fluidity are long term goals, either in clicker training or in traditional training.

Truths and lies about clicker dog training

- You can teach your dog even without touching him: Truth.

You can teach almost anything to your dog without touching him or putting him on a leash.

- You can get a perfectly trained dog without using the leash: Lie.

Although you can teach some exercises without being necessary to put a leash on your dog, you need a buckle collar and a leash to generalize the training. The leash is a safety measure the first times high distractions are introduced on an unfenced place. It is not used to correct the dog.

- You will have to reward your dog forever: Lie.

You can use a variable reinforcement schedule to eliminate food treats and dog toys. Or, even better, you can use daily-life reinforcers in order to eliminate dog treats and toys.

- Clicker training is useful to teach new tricks to an old dog: Truth.

It doesn't matter the age of your dog. Old dogs, as well as puppies, can learn with this technique. The only requirement is that your dog has enough energy to go through a training program.

- Clicker trained behaviors are not reliable: Lie

Clicker trained behaviors are as reliable as traditional trained ones, or even more.

Rodrigo Trigosso is a biologist and professional dog trainer. To learn more about Clicker Dog Training, visit his website, the Dog Training Tutorial, which provides objective and reliable information on dog training and behavior.

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