Clicker for dog : how to educate him with this accessory ?
The clicker is a small box that facilitates the training of dogs. Training with a dog clicker is a practice that is becoming more and more popular in France in recent years. This gentle and positive method is used with all types of animals, but mainly with dogs, by individuals and professionals alike. How does the clicker work? How to apply the clicker method properly? Here is our complete guide to clicker training: techniques for using the clicker with your dog.
The clicker can be used as a dog training tool to solve the problem of dogs jumping on people
1- What is a dog clicker ?
A small, very simple plastic case a few centimeters long, the dog clicker fits easily in the hand. It contains a metal tongue that, when pressed, generates a short, dry sound, which can be compared to a small click or a big click (hence the name clicker). This neutral sound is always identical and very easily recognizable, hence its use with animals. (chickens, rats, sheep, horses, dogs, marine mammals…). This device has been used since the 1940s to train movie dogs.
The method was then developed by the American army at the end of the second world war, to train their animals and more particularly the carrier pigeons and the dolphins which had to carry messages or place explosive devices. This method was then adopted by parks presenting marine shows, before making its appearance in the canine and equine world in the 1970s. Since its beginnings, it has been a great success, thanks to the rapidity of learning it offers, and has known a real boom in the 90s.
2- Using a clicker to train your dog
The clicker training method is relatively easy to set up to educate your dog. Nevertheless, a minimum of knowledge and practice is necessary to succeed in training your dog correctly with the clicker. As the owner, you should start by understanding the principle of clicker training, its advantages and, above all, how to use it with your pet.
2-1 The principle of clicker training
The principle of clicker training is quite simple. You must activate the clicker each time the dog reacts in the right way to your indication and reward it (this is called positive reinforcement). On the other hand, other behaviors are completely ignored (no yelling, no talking, no punishing, etc.). The very characteristic sound of the box makes it easy for the animal to understand that what it is doing is positive and thus facilitates its understanding of your requests. It is a simpler and more direct way of communicating with him. During your training, the sound of the clicker will even be your only way of communicating with your dog, which can be confusing at first, or even seem very cold, since it is not recommended to talk or touch your dog so that he can concentrate on the clicker.
2-2 Clicker shaping
A more complex method called shaping is used to indicate to the animal that it is on the right track with the clicker, much like the hot/cold game. So when the dog starts to do what you want it to do, you click and if not, you ignore. This allows you to break down the movement with him and guide him. A practical method for the most complex movements in particular. However, you will have to think about the different steps you want to teach your dog beforehand. For example, to teach him to roll on the ground, the first step will be “lying down”, the second will be “lying on his side” and the third will be “rolling on the other side”. Of course, each click will be followed by a reward.
2-3 The benefits of the clicker
Clicker training is a gentle and precise method that does not give your dog any confusing instructions. In addition, it does not transmit your mood to your dog, unlike oral commands, which can be tiring or even impatient and can have a negative influence on your dog. There is no need to give commands or to use force or coercion. The clicker method is less stressful for you and your dog. The distinct sound of the clicker gives a clear indication of the behavior to be performed, which helps the dog to learn and accelerates the learning process. The dog then becomes a real actor in the exchange that is created. He proposes a movement and tries to reproduce the behavior validated by the click. The clicker is a real new way of communicating, which will strengthen your relationship with your pet and allow you to teach him all sorts of tricks.
2-4 Who can use this training method?
Professionals often use this training method, but it is also very easy to access for individuals. Whether you have a puppy or an older dog, aggressive or agitated, you can use the clicker and quickly see results. The advantage for agitated dogs is that the clicker’s clear and distinctive sound will make it easier to get their attention. You will also appreciate using the clicker with an aggressive dog, as it allows you to give him a cue without touching him. Of course, no method is a miracle method and all of them require your investment and your patience for a result that meets your expectations.7
3- The different stages of clicker training
It is important to start the training with simple exercises and to be sure that the dog understands how the clicker works. Here is some information on how to use the clicker training method with your dog or puppy.
In order to carry out clicker training successfully, it is important not to “knock out” the dog with all kinds of instructions. You need to set up training sessions of 5 to 10 minutes so that the dog doesn’t get bored and doesn’t see it as a chore. Also, choose familiar places for your first training sessions, so that the dog will be distracted as little as possible, while the basics are acquired.
3-1 Combining the clicker with positive behavior
Clicker training is based on positive reinforcement of a behavior. It is therefore important to first make the dog understand that hearing the click is positive. To do this, the first step in training is to activate the clicker each time you give the dog a reward (e.g. a kibble). You should repeat this several times in a row, making sure that the click is heard when the kibble appears. There should not be any time between the two, so that the dog can relate the sound to the reward. Once you have done this about 10 times, space out the clicks (and therefore the kibble). Then, after several clicks, wait a few minutes until the dog is distracted or looks away to activate the clicker. If the positive association is well integrated by the dog, he should react immediately to the sound and come towards you to get his kibble.
3-2 Learning the positions
Once the dog has understood the positive impact of the clicker, you can begin the actual training. It is recommended to start with simple positions such as sitting or standing. This time, you will mark the exact moment when the dog is in the correct position with the clicker and then give him his treat. You will then repeat this sequence several times in a row, always making sure to press the clicker as soon as the dog complies. Again, this is the action that will help the dog understand what he is doing and that he is doing it correctly. Once the movement is learned, you can add the corresponding verbal command “sit”, “down”, etc. just before the dog does it.
To learn the positions, you will need to use the kibble to guide the dog at first (like a lure). You will then click as soon as he starts the movement, or according to the shaping method, when he gets down to show him that he is on the right path (in the case of learning to lie down for example). Once the movement is understood, you will have to repeat it several times to teach it to the dog, as we explained earlier.
3-3 Learning the look
It can also be interesting to use the clicker to get the dog to pay attention to you when it hears the clicker sound. To do this, hold your arm with the kibble away from you. Wait until the dog is no longer looking at your hand but at your face to click and give him his kibble. Then repeat the action. The sound of the clicker can be used to remind your dog to go for a walk, for example, or to make him pay attention to an indication.
3-4 Triggering an action
In addition to learning a position, you can also trigger a behavior by spotting an action your dog naturally performs and marking it with the clicker. For example, if he barks once and you want to be able to make him bark on command once, watch for the moment when he does so and clicker him immediately and give him a treat. Then wait for him to do it again and do it again. Repeat this combination several times. After several repetitions, make a gesture to encourage him to bark (open and close your hand like a mouth for example) and click as soon as the dog barks. In the long run, the dog will associate this gesture with barking and will understand that this is what you expect from him.
3-5 Getting rid of the clicker
Of course, the ultimate goal of dog clicker training is not that you should always have it with you to give your pet a command or indication. Once the positions or behaviors have been learned, the oral indication or gesture will gradually take over from the clicker. It is important that you don’t turn into a live kibble dispenser either! So think quickly to separate yourself from the one and the other with training.