Clicker training is a great way to teach your pet new things in a positive way that makes learning fun for both of you. You can clicker train many types of animals including cats, dogs, horses and rabbits. The concept of clicker training was first used in marine mammals and is now widely used in zoos throughout the world.
Clicker training works by marking the exact time an animal performs a behaviour which tells the animal that they have done exactly what you would like them to do and they will receive a reward for that. Food is the reward of choice as it is a primary reinforcer and needed for survival. The more a behaviour is rewarded, or reinforced, the more likely your pet will repeat the behavior, just remember that this works for both wanted behaviour and unwanted behaviour.
Steps to clicker training:
- Condition the clicker by pairing the sound with a food reward.
Check that the clicker has been conditioned by clicking when your pet is distracted and see if they turn around to look for the treat.
- Use luring, targeting, capturing or shaping to get the desired behaviour.
- Add a verbal and/or physical cue to the behaviour just before you click to condition the cue for the desired behaviour.
- Click and treat each attempt at the correct behaviour until it is reliably on cue and then phase out the clicking or randomly reinforce with a click and treat.
What you will need:
- Treat pouch
- Your dog
Clicker training tips:
- A click must always be followed by a treat or the click will loose its value.
- Use a high rate of reinforcement (lots of clicks per minute) to keep your pet motivated.
- Generalise the behaviour by teaching it in five or more different environments.
- If a behaviour deteriorates break it down into smaller steps and go back to using the clicker.
- Clicking at the right time is very important but don’t worry if your timing isn’t perfect at first, it will improve over time.
- Focus on one behaviour at a time and only click for that one behaviour.
- Keep training sessions short and always end on a positive.
- Have fun!