Clicker Training fact and fiction

The clicker is not:

–A remote control: “Sit”-CLICK  (done in a forward motion like w/ T.V. remote that has dying batteries… hoping the forward motion helps push the signal to the box 10 ft in front of you)

–An attention getting tool:  CLICK, CLICK, CLICK.. “Fido!!”  CLICK CLICK

–A cue giving device (one click sit, two clicks down etc):  CLICK CLICK–“down!”…. CLICK CLICK–“DOWN!”

The clicker is:

–A device that makes a unique sound that is conditioned to mean “That’s what I want, food is coming!”: it is like Pavlov’s bell.  The uniqueness of the click makes it very effective because the only time they hear that noise is when they are working… which is not the case with most verbal markers (like YES! or Good!)

A tool used to mark (point out) appropriate behavior or in other words, it signals to the dog the exact moment for which he is being rewarded (it is like the click of a camera lens taking a snapshot of the desired behavior):  “Sit”–dog’s tush hits the floor–CLICK–reward

–Scientifically shown to be faster and more precise than a verbal marker:  using a clicker you can capture behaviors that happen in an instant, things that verbal markers struggle to mark…. like tongue flicks, lip curls, yawns, or passing glances (working toward eye contact)

Clicker Training is NOT:

–A wishy washy training style only appropriate for low-drive or “easy” dogs:  there are consequences to inappropriate behavior–loss of access (door closing or putting a dog in a crate), removal of toy, ending the game, taking away attention, or losing the opportunity to work (for many high drive dogs taking away opportunities to work sends a resounding message regarding their choice in behavior).  Dogs can absolutely be held to a very high standard of work when clicker training.

–All about food:  although the click needs to be connected with food, proper clicker training drops the click relatively quickly (usually substituting a verbal marker) and then weans off treats.  Sometimes it’s a matter of conditioning secondary reinforcers or simply finding other things that are rewarding to the dog–but using a high rate of food reinforcers is not something done for the life of the dog.

Risa has some resource guarding behaviors and one of them is guarding space near Jamie so she is using the clicker to mark Risa for looking at but not snarking at Rio.

–Only for trick training: even people who are critical of Clicker Trainers (proper) often use clickers for training tricks because of the benefits of the click:  In actuality, the clicker can be used in behavior modification plans (with fearful dogs, resource guarders, fear aggressive, dog reactive etc), competition obedience training, rally-o training, basic manners, service dog behavior, sport training, and yes, trick training.


Clicker Training IS:

–A training method that purposefully excludes the use of physical punishment (hitting, alpha rolling, leash popping, nose slapping, leash jerking, kicking, etc) without any loss of compliance or precision:  Clicker Trainers use non-physical punishments combined with heavily reinforcing behaviors to achieve compliance and precision.

–A method of training that truly teaches the dog to think not simply perform behaviors (and values the dogs as being active participants in the training):  Through shaping and capturing, dogs are learning how to learn, learning how to think, and learning how to be creative.  Games like 101 Things To Do with a Box allow a dog to be creative and work to figure out what behavior is being clicked.

–A great method to teach “naked” reliability:  Training methods that rely on collar corrections or e-collars often break down if the tool is absent, even after the behavior is well known.  Since the clicker is a tool that is removed pretty quickly and food is methodically removed during the traininging process, there are really no tools that the dog is reliant on (being reliant on food is a common problem with novice trainers but it has everything to do with handler error, not an flaw with Clicker Training).  I’d say I worked Rio off-leash in an open park 3 times a week starting two weeks after I got him (at about 4 months old)…. he knows leash or not, clicker or not, food or not, that it’s always beneficial for him to comply with my cues and he happily does so.


About Success Just Clicks

I'm a dog trainer and enthusiast who moonlights as a blogger and custom tug-toy maker.
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