So, you’ve adopted a new puppy or adult dog. Food, toys, and beds have all been purchased; the first wellness exam is done; parasite protection is covered; microchipping is complete. Next up on the agenda is training, but with so many options available, how do you know which method is right for you?
Time and again, research has shown that animals respond best to positive reinforcement. At Animal Kind Veterinary Hospital, we couldn’t agree more! Clicker training is a popular choice due to its ease and effectiveness – and the fact that it works with both dogs and cats (yes, cats can be trained!).
Clicker Training 101
Clicker training was originally developed by marine mammal trainers who utilized whistles that could be heard underwater. Because it can be difficult to offer a treat or reward at precisely the right moment, the whistle or clicker acts as a way to bridge that time gap. The click lets your pet know exactly when they’ve accomplished what you’re looking for and that a reward will soon follow. Clicker training also allows for more focused and effective training by eliminating the possibility that your pet is responding to other variables in their environment.
Charge Your Clicker!
A clicker is a small mechanical noise maker that emits a click when a button is pushed. Before you can begin using your clicker, you must first associate the sound it makes with a reward. Start by laying out 10 delicious treats, then click and feed your pet one treat at a time. Continue until all 10 treats have been eaten. When your dog’s eyes light up at the sound of the click, your clicker is ready!
Trying it Out
Clicker training involves cueing your dog to perform a certain behavior (e.g., “sit”) and clicking the moment their bottom hits the floor. Follow this up immediately with a treat. You can also wait until your dog performs a desired behavior, such as sitting still, then click and provide a treat as soon as it occurs.
Clicker training can be used for any basic obedience command, such as “sit,” “stay,” “come,” or “down.” In general, this is type of training is less effective when it comes to correcting problem behaviors (unless you’re attempting to redirect your pet – for example, clicking and treating your dog when they look at you instead of at the cat they’re trying to chase).
Beyond the Click
If you don’t want to go to the trouble of buying a clicker and carrying it around, no problem! Any short word or noise used consistently in place of a “click” will work just fine. Try words like “yes” or “good” each time your dog performs a desired behavior.
The Key to Success
Consistency is key to successful clicker training:
- 1 click = 1 reward – For the best results, deliver a reward within 3 seconds of clicking. Although you can play around with the timing as your dog progresses, it’s important to always follow each click with a reward.
- Set a schedule – Your dog thrives on routine, so carve out time each day to work on their training.
- End result – A tool such as a clicker or marker word is not intended to be used forever. You can gradually put your dog on a varied schedule of reinforcement, just make sure not to withhold the reward for too long or your pet may backslide. Eventually, you won’t need to click or reward every time.
As with any type of training, stay positive and have patience! In time, all your hard work will pay off. Please contact us with any questions or concerns!