Clicker Training May Be Easier than you Think
Clicker training originated with dolphins. I’m sure you’ve all seen a dolphin perform using a voice command followed by a click and a fish. Same concept and dogs learn through the same behavior, repletion and reward. Your dog may prefer clicker training and actually reference it as a game, not training at all. Dogs learn through repetitive behaviors and positive reinforcement. Dogs are also pack animals and they eagerly wait for their commands. That means your dog instinctively wants to be instructed. If you consider all of these aspects you just might agree, clicker training may be easier than you think.
Don’t ever believe the phrase “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. Literally, there have been studies done to debunk that myth. If your dog responds to threats then I’m sure he’s going to like this new game. Yes, clicker training may be easier than you think; you can actually convince your dog that it’s a game.
You’ll need something that makes a distinct click, if you're using a do-it-yourself clicker make sure it’s not offensive to your dog. Store bought clickers are perfect, but anything that makes a distinct click is usable...be consistent with your click. Then you’ll need a pocket full of kibble...you can make some healthy snack. Sometimes new is good, your dog will associate the new treat with the new game. The rest is simple. Find a quiet one-on-one place to play.
The first and most important thing to do next is train your dog to associate the click with the treat. From the first time you give your dog a treat click your clicker. Your dog has to associate the treat with the click. From the very first time he eats the treat click the clicker. Click and treat at the same time. Play games...walk away and click and treat….over the next few days randomly click and reward. I’d recommend not moving forward until this becomes your dog's trigger for a treat. Next add the command, click, and only reward when the dog performs the task being commanded. Now do you see how clicker training may be easier than you think?
Ok, so what about problems or things to avoid? One tip I picked up from Jolanta Bernal...she’s a dog trainer and she has some great articles you should skim through. Her tip flew under my radar but makes complete sense. She says “keep the treats irrelevant” don’t let the dog get so crazy about the treat. She recommends that once your dog associates the click to the treat stop caring the treat. Click and when your dog responds go to a place where the treats will be kept. Never never click without the treat and don’t use the clicker as the demand to come without the treat. If your dog isn’t learning the command aspect then be patient and repetitive. Start with a command he already knows and reward him for the click and treat anyway. This could instill that this isn’t just a click and a treat anymore. Don’t give up, try everyday and use fun voice reinforcement...it’s a game remember. If a dolphin can do it why not your dog?