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Clicker Training for Dogs - The No-Nonsense Guide

When using a clicker for the training of dogs, the most important thing to note is that the clicker sounds the same every time. There are physical clickers available and also there are apps for smartphones that produce the same clicker sound.

The use of these smartphone apps makes sure that you always have the clicker handy with you when you are carrying the smartphone.

What is a Clicker and How to Do Dog Training Without Treats?

Clickers are a little hand held device that makes a ‘clicking’ sound and is used in place of a marker word. A marker word is a short word used consistently on a dog when he does something right.

In positive reinforcement training, the dogs are rewarded by their trainers for behaving well with something fun and motivating. These words are mostly 3 to 4 letter word. These words are used consistently to make a point to the dog that it has done something right.

For instance, when training their dogs, people all over the world use the word “yes”. When a command is issued to the dog and he is able to understand and do as told then they appreciate the dog.

An example of such a case is when a dog is given the instruction to sit. Once it sits, the trainer uses the word “yes” to convey that the dog has accomplished his duty.

It is only when the dog does as commanded, that these words are used. They have proven to be helpful even when one does not have a treat at the moment.

This prevents the pet from doing something else which may not be pleasant. These words also prevent the dog from forgetting what he did to earn a reward.

Marker words bring a theme of understanding between the dog and its owner regarding what is expected from the dog.

Clicker Vs Other Outdated Methods?

The use of a clicker is way better than verbal commands because a voice can be influenced by various things hence not consistent. For instance, when angry, sad, or even happy, your voice intonation might vary. Whereas as you use a clicker, the sound is always the same.

Different voice intonations might send the wrong message across or be confusing for the dog.

The use of marker words has made it easy for people to communicate with their pets. These marker words and clickers are important because they act as rewards to the animals.

This makes it easy for them to feel appreciated than when you are using treats. Since there might be occurrences where you delay to praise the good work in time and dog is distracted by something else.

Positively sanctioning a dog or pet when they do as required of them makes them eager to perform better in every instruction given. They even look for ways by which they will be able to express their abilities to their owners.

This is because they know that in doing so they will be rewarded and appreciated for their efforts. In this way, the training process becomes enjoyable and adventurous for both the trainer and the pet.

Clicker Than Verbal Commands

Is a Clicker Good for Dog Training?

Studies done in America show that it is only less than an eighth of the whole puppy population (which is about 82 million puppies) that are trained. Hence a very large number of dogs remain untrained which may be dangerous. These statistics show that about 62 million dogs in America are not trained.

This is largely due to the fact that some of the puppy owners are ignorant when it comes to the training of dogs. They might have no idea what they are supposed to do and might not be able to comprehend the significance of this training.

It is vital to note that training of a dog does not require too much effort or the need to employ a trainer. The training can be done by the owners in the comfort of their homes. It has become a mainstream thought that it is a must to hire a professional.

The trainer will then teach some skills to the pet on the owner’s behalf. The belief has become widespread that there is a need for the trainer to have mastered some old fashioned training skills in order for the training to be successful.

The old fashioned training skills seem oppressive to the dogs. This is yet another reason why people prefer not to train their dogs. They align the training to the mistreatment of the animal which is a misconception.

Understanding when your dog is ready for clicker training and starting to train it helps you in shaping your pet’s behavior.

Difference Between Clicker Training and Verbal Commands

Despite the fact that a clicker and a marker word works in the same manner, there are some aspects that distinguish them. One is that marker words might become confusing for yourself.

That is because in choosing the word you normally settle for one that is easy for the dog to understand but is still used to communicate with other people.

For this reason, the word might come up when the trainer is having a conversation with another person and send the wrong message to the pet. On the other hand, the noise that is produced by a clicker is one that cannot be heard elsewhere.

The clicker sound is unique and it is very hard to give the wrong message. The clicker is only used when the trainer is interacting with the dog thus the probability of it being used in other occurrences is very rare.

In addition to that, the use of marker words becomes a little bit hard since the intonation of the word varies with the mood of the conveyor. For this reason, the word does not sound the same every time it is said which might confuse the dog.

However, in the case of a clicker, the sound made is normal and irrespective to the trainers’ mood. Therefore it is highly unlikely that the clicker will convey the wrong message to the dog.

How Do You Use a Clicker for Dog Training?

Clicker training is a more effective and efficient way as it is easier than other methods such as marker words and is applicable to all kinds of pets.

In the later sections, we shall cover “Let Go” and “Walk on a Leash” examples of how exactly to use the clicker. This section is here to give some pointers on how to clicker-train your pet:

  1. Put pressure on the button on the clicker to produce a distinctive sound then give the dog little treats after the click. Ensure that you give these treats in small amounts so that the animal is kept interested to learn so as to get other treats.
  2. Ensure that the clicks come when the dog is doing what they have been instructed to and not after. It is vital to note that the click might distract the dog to stop actualizing the desired behavior. But this should not stop you from giving the animal its treat.
  3. At the beginning of the training, use things that are easy and come naturally to the dog. In this way, the dog will understand that when a certain behavior is done it is followed by a click which acts as a reward for him.
  4. Note that when giving a reward, use a single click to show your appreciation. Do not increase the clicks but you can increase the prize.
  5. Short training lessons, for instance, 5 minutes long sessions, would be more productive as compared to long sessions.
  6. It has been seen that the use of a clicker is efficient in correcting bad behaviors in a pet. Once you click on desirable action by your pet, the less the probability of doing the wrong thing.
  7. Pay attention to your pet’s actions during the day and click whenever the desired behavior takes place either involuntarily or on purpose. It is important that you let the dog figure out some things on their own instead of trying to force them to act a certain way. It has been proven that voluntary behavior is remembered more by the dogs compared to forced actions.
  8. Learn to appreciate the little things that you find appealing to you and leaning more into your training objectives even if the goal has not been met entirely.
  9. Once these little things become part of your life, start directing these actions further to meet your goals.
  10. Once you find out that the dog is accustomed to clicks and has understood which behaviors result to rewards, start giving signals and only click once the necessary behavior is given on demand.
  11. In case your pet does not pick up the signal, it is vital to understand that this is not an act of disobedience and could be that it does not understand the cue. For this reason, be patient and avoid getting violent
  12. Ensure that the way you click on different behaviors does not confuse your pet. That is why you only need to click once.
  13. Do not use the clicker when you’re angry and trying to correct a certain behavior.
  14. The timing of the click is very important as it gratifies a behavior instantly. If the click starts to come late, its purpose is void and might not lead to effective training of the dog.
  15. Your pet training lessons should be short and enjoyable as they not only teach the pet new tricks but also helps strengthen your bond.
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How Do You Use a Clicker for Dog Training

Why Do Dog Trainers Use Clickers?

During training sessions, most trainers carry the clicker and rewards in terms of treats for the dogs. However after a while and once the pet has learned the desirable traits, the owner can withdraw the treats and use other methods of sanctioning their pet.

The fact that behaviors that are unwanted can go unnoticed is something that should be taken into consideration. As much as people believe that when you ignore a trait it will seize to exist, they should also understand that there are alternative ways that are more effective than training a pet.

It is also essential to note that different trainers use different strategies to train a dog. That is why there is no standard way of training pets in the world. Clickers can be used to train all varieties of pets. Yes, clickers can also be used to train even birds.

In addition to this, it is important to note that an individual’s sound cannot be as effective as a clicker since the tone varies from time to time.

There Are Myths About Clicker Training

There will be a time when your pet might be unable to understand what you need them to do. In such cases, there will be miscommunication between the two of you. In such a case, use the clicker to capture the pet’s attention.

Then reward them every time they follow your gesture. You can still use the clicker even if they do not do exactly what you want them to. When they pick on the gesture you can now teach them what you want to be done slowly.

How to Train a Stubborn Dog With Clicker Training

There are some dogs that happen to be scared of various things. It might be a bit difficult to train such pets using a clicker. This is because this gadget produces a very loud sound.

Since the dog is scared, the loud sound might act as a trigger for aggression from the pet as self-defense. In such cases, the trainer would rather settle for a marker word as opposed to the clicker.

Other discordant pets could be taught how to be less assaultive through clicker training. However such lessons are hard and require a lot of patience from the trainer.

Trainers ensure that these pets are accustomed to new ways of living and reacting to their surroundings and people in a subtle way.

In prior times, there have been successful training to pets who are aggressive. This is done through repetition of the same thing for very many times. It all starts with connecting the click to a reward that your pet will always understand.

Train a Stubborn Dog With Clicker Training

Train Your Dog to Let Things Go Using a Clicker

Just as you can teach your pet how to change their behaviors, you could also use a clicker to teach them how to leave things. Below are some guidelines on how you can do this.

  1. Have a snack in your hand and allow the dog to smell it. Only present the treat to him if he decides to leave it. This should be done repeatedly until your pet understands that they only get the reward once they let what they want to go.
  2. Play with your pet by showing them the treat you have in your hand. But ensure that they do not get it until they loose interest in trying to get it. When the loose interest is the only time to present it to them.
  3. Set the reward on the floor and repeat the same thing.
  4. Place the snack at a strategic place and implore it to leave the snack alone. Observe how long it will take to fall into temptation. Repeat this lesson with a negative sanction for every time they fall into temptation. You will observe that your pet will learn to ignore things that they really want.
  5. Do this over time and monitor how long it takes your pet to fight for the prize.

Clicker Training To Stop Barking

While we discuss barking from clicker perspective in this section, do give the article on stopping unnecessary barking forever written by me.

When doing clicker training, your dog has learned the click. You can use it to stop the barking behavior also. You would already notice then when the click is played by you, the dog wags his tail and looks excited. This is called classical conditioning.

As soon as you see the dog starting the barking behavior, firstly you need to be patient. Keep waiting and take a deep breath. Waiting until the dog has stopped barking is the key here. If you can avoid looking or touching him, nothing like it.

As soon as the barking behavior comes to a stop, say the word “Quiet”. After that without any time delay, click the clicker. Supplement the click with a treat for the dog.

Usually dogs bark in bursts. That is barking is followed by some quiet moments and then barking and then quiet and so on. This means that you can also repeat the above process of saying “Quiet”, playing click and offer a treat.

Repeat this type of clicker training in the morning, afternoon and evening. You can do it everywhere and every time you get the opportunity.

Can You Train a Dog Without a Clicker?

Yes, it is definitely possible to train dogs without a clicker. In such cases, you need to replace the click with a signal. This signal should be easy for you to give and also easy for the dog to understand. Make sure to issue the signal at the right timing.

Just to give you an example, ballpoint pens, and similar other items have been used by dog trainers to simulate a quieter click. Horse clicker trainers would use their tongue. Dog trainers would use a modification of words like “yip” instead of “yes”. Dolphin trainers would use a whistle.

In case the dog is deaf, the hand signal is used instead of a clicker. Other options include a vibrating remote collar or a flashlight etc.

The point that you need to understand here is that the clicker isn’t the most important part of clicker training. If your dog is not liking the clicker, there are a number of ways to still train your pets.

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Conclusion – Do You Have to Use a Clicker Forever?

An important point to note in this regard is that even if the clicker has been used for training, the clicker would slowly be replaced with markers. This is done when the dog and owner have a mutual understanding.

The final point to mention here is clicker is just a means of communication. A way of saying thank you for the correct behavior. If you can achieve the same using some other method then you can replace that with clickers.

Referências

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168159114000264
  2. https://arts.units.it/bitstream/11368/2899105/1/Chiandettietal_APPLAN16.pdf

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