In the dog training world there are often gadgets that come and go.
Some promise to stop your dog barking. Some offer a ‘cure’ to pulling on the lead. Often they really don’t work, or need skilled assistance to really be effective.
Using a ‘clicker’ in training animals is not one of those magic gadgets, however. No matter how strange it may seem to use such an object, they really are simple and very easy to use tools. However, you need to fully understand what a clicker does, what is doesn’t do, and what you need to be able to use one.
A clicker is not a command nor a magic wand. The ‘click’ sound tells your dog (or cat, or fish... yes really!) that they have just done something that will earn them a valuable reward. This reward can be anything but is usually a really tasty piece of food as it is easy to control. Imagine you are taking a photograph of your dog lying down. You would click the clicker at this point, then give your dog some food. With repetition your dog would learn that lying down brings a click, then food. You add a word to mean ‘lie down’ so that the dog learns to follow this instruction. He links all these things together as a way of earning the food. Easy!
A click can be a replacement for you saying ‘Yes!’ or ‘Good Dog’ when your dog has got it right. Clickers are more powerful because they always sound the same, are a ‘quick’, unusual noise and they force you to have good timing! Try clicking every time a newsreader blinks their eyes, for example, and see how accurate you need to be. In this way the exact moment of your dog’s behaviour is captured with spot-on timing. That’s the best reason for using a clicker in dog training.
Most of all, clickers have no room for punishment. Either the dog does it right and gets a click and treat, or they get nothing. Clicker training is still a skill, and is not the only way to train a dog of course. I am teaching a workshop on it very soon. Come along to my website for more information.
Karen Wild is an APBC registered behaviourist and qualified dog trainer with 20 years experience. She is also an ABTC clinical animal behaviourist. Her practice ‘Pawprint’ offers behaviour referrals for vet practices and puppy classes in the local area. Karen is a training and behaviour contributor for Dogs Today magazine and author of ‘What your Dog Wants’. To find out more visit www.karenwild.co.uk or call 01778 560465.