The clicker is a small but extremely effective tool in the training of any animal; in particular it is very helpful when training basic commands in your dog. It is easier to use a clicker effectively if you understand how it works as a training aid..
How it works
Clicker training works using the concept of operant conditioning– using the animals likes and/or dislikes to modify its behaviour. A reward (usually food and sometimes play) is given when the animal exhibits a desired behaviour (for example, sitting or rolling over) to encourage it to perform that action more often. Timing is important in operant conditioning in order to mark the correct behaviour; however it is very difficult to give your dog a treat at the exact moment he/ she rolls over! So a clicker is used as a secondary reinforcer, meaning that it marks the behaviour at the minute it occurs and lets the dog know it has done something desirable and a reward is on its way. But in order for this to work, first the clicker needs to be ’s mind.
Clicker Training your dog
Before the clicker can be used, your dog needs to be conditioned to what the clicker means.
This is achieved as follows:
Ensure that you have a supply of your dog’s favourite treat, chopped up into raisin-sized pieces. Cheese or frankfurters often work well, but it is up to you to decide what your dog likes best.
Choose a place to train your dog where he will not be distracted. Press the clicker and immediately offer your dog a treat.
Repeat this process several times, until your dog is looking eagerly at the clicker in anticipation of the treat.
Once your dog is looking for the reward after hearing the sound, he is conditioned to the clicker.
Now your dog is clicker trained and you can start training, sit, stay etc!
Training the ‘sit’ command
Stand next to your dog with a treat in one hand and the clicker in the other.
Let your dog sniff your hand so that he knows there is a treat hidden in it.
Slowly raise your hand (with the treat inside) from in front of your dog’s nose to up above his head.
His head should raise upwards, lured by the treat. As this happens, his rear end should lower.
Click and treat for any movement of the dog’s rump toward the floor.
Repeat the process several times, each time slightly prolonging the amount of time before you click, so that the dog’s bottom is getting closer to the floor.
Using this method, your dog should eventually be resting his rump completely on the floor before he is clicked and treated; this is the desired ‘sit’ position.
Once your dog is reliably being lured into a sit, the treat lure can be removed. Instead, use an upward sweep of your arm, hand cupped, palm upward, to signal to your dog to sit. Still remember to click and treat when your dog does the behaviour you want!
Now it is time to introduce a verbal command. Before you raise your hand in the sit signal or cue, say the word ‘sit’ and proceed as before.
Repeat this several times in a row.
Now you can try the verbal command without the hand signal. Give the ‘sit’ verbal cue and wait. If the dog sits within 20-30 seconds, click immediately as he sits, and treat.
Remain at this stage of training, rewarding every response to the verbal command until your dog sits immediately on command.
Your dog is now trained to sit!
Important; don’t expect to achieve these results over night! Training takes time and patience. Depending on the dog, it may take days or weeks of training to teach your dog to sit. It’s important to persevere; your will get there eventually!
Written by Miss S Narsingh
BSC (hons) Applied Animal Behaviour Training