Learning through positive reinforcement in the form of rewards leads to better results than punishment and prohibition. Today there is a broad consensus about this basic attitude in the training of dogs. Clicker training has been a method that supports this type of education for some time.
Seduce to the teaching goal
We engage in the behavior more often when it results in a gain. That applies to us humans – and it also applies to our dogs. While a win can look very different for humans, a treat is a win for a dog.
In the confusion of all the new impressions in the course of training, a dog is often not immediately clear what exactly it was rewarded for. This is where clicker training can help.
What is a clicker?
The clicker is simple, as it is well-known as a children’s toy. Its essential part is a metal plate. The shape of this plate is changed by finger pressure in such a way that it snaps at a certain point, causing a loud cracking noise.
The advantage of this monotonous clicking is that it doesn’t tell the dog anything about the person sending the signal. It’s always the same, no matter whether the clicker is operated by a dog trainer or a familiar owner. And the simple click tells the dog nothing about the state of mind of the person. The voice of owners sometimes sounds happy, then excited again or angry – the clicker, on the other hand, always sounds the same and is practically unmistakable because it hardly ever occurs in other everyday situations.
Why a clicker?
The click is an acoustic signal to the dog. It marks a specific point in the dog’s behavior. Especially in learning situations, i.e. unfamiliar situations, the dog shows different behaviors in quick succession. If the behavior we want is present, we reward the dog with praise or a treat. But what exactly he was rewarded for is often not clear to the dog.
That’s where the clicker helps. An acoustic signal, which should be set as simultaneously as possible with the desired behavior of the dog, should indicate to him: EXACTLY THAT’S what I’m getting my treat for. The click itself is not a reward, but rather marks the dog’s behavior for which it is being rewarded.
How does click work?
First, the dog needs to be conditioned to the clicker, meaning it needs to associate the click sound with a positive experience — a reward. Small treats that are easy to swallow are suitable as a reward, eg dog biscuits, pieces of cheese, sausage, or meat – each about the size of a pea. When working with food treats, the dog should also have a certain level of hunger.
You hold about five to ten treats in one hand and the clicker in the other hand. Now you click with one hand and give the dog the treat with the other hand at exactly that moment. If you have clicked five to ten times, the dog will slowly understand that he gets a reward after every click sound. Then you wait a bit until the dog turns away. Then you click again. If the dog then looks at you expectantly, you know that the link worked.