Clicker TRAINING Basics
is clicker training?
Positive Reinforcement--rewards the animal for correct behaviors. All dogs will do what works & especially if it gains them something they like! The more a behavior is rewarded, the more likely that behavior is to occur. Positive reinforcement is used with wild animals, working dogs, in the work place, schools, and even in the Olympics.
Clicker-- a small box that makes a noise. The noise, unlike our voices, is unique and non-emotional. It serves as a communication tool for our dogs. It lets Fido know that he has done something right & will receive a reward.
Clicker training is recommended by the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior as well as the Humane Society of the United States. There are no negative side effects. The worst that can happen is training will be ineffective if applied incorrectly. For more information on training methods, please visit the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior website at : avsabonline.org Click on "public site" and "position statements."
Common Questions & Curiosities about Clicker Training Answered
Do I always have to carry a clicker & treats? No. The clicker is only used for learning new behaviors. Once the dog has truly learned the behavior you stop clicking & treat only the best performances randomly.
I think my dog will only work if I have treats in hand if I do this. No. Not if the training is applied properly. There is a vast difference between bribery & rewards. While treats are used very heavily in the beginning learning stages they need to be faded out. We do this by using variable reinforcement--the same principle on which slot machines work. Sometimes the dog will be rewarded, some times he won't. Variable reinforcement actually helps behaviors grow stronger! Think of gambling addicts--Fido will do the same.
My dog will get fat if I use treats to train. No. Dogs become too heavy if they are over fed (or have medical issues). Simply adjust Fido's meals accordingly when you have a treat intensive training session. Actually, we encourage you to train with his meal. Your dog has to eat anyway, so use meal time as training time!
While all behavioral issues can be addressed with clicker training, it is NOT a magical quick fix. Any effective training with your dog is based upon building a mutually trusting, respectful relationship. Just as you wouldn't expect to go to the gym for one evening & return with bulging biceps, you cannot expect one training session to transform your dog. Enjoy the journey of learning & love together!