Dog Training Obedience Clicker, How Does It Work?

What is a clicker?
 
A clicker is a small device that you can carry easily, attach to a jacket, or keep in a pocket. When you press on it, it makes a distinctive clicking sound. They are sold at pet supply places, quite inexpensively and usually in groups, as it’s handy to have several around.

You can click a clicker much faster than you can say “Good!” or any other praise word. I have experimented with making a clicking noise with my mouth, and have found that it’s much slower than clicking a clicker. Since dogs can do a lot of different things in a short time period, the faster your click, the more likely you are to have indicated the exact behavior you wanted to reward.

One of the most important aspects of animal training is the timing. In order for the dog to learn that a certain behavior gets him a reinforcement, the reinforcement must be delivered while the behavior is taken place. The more accurate we are, the easier it is for the dog to learn. The more we postpone the reinforcement , the less is the ability to associate between the behavior and the consequence. For example, if I want to teach my dog to sit, I need to deliver the treat (reinforcer) right as the dog’s behind touches the ground. This is where the clicker comes in: by establishing a connection between the “click” and the treat, I can manage to deliver information to the dog immediately.
 
How does the training clicker work?
 
We create an association between a “click” and a treat. We click and immediately treat, we click and treat. We repeat this dozens of times and the dog realizes “ok , when I hear this sound, I get a good thing”. Now, when this association is made, we can use this click to deliver information to the dog about his behavior. We will click the clicker the instant a behavior we want occurs. The dog sits, we click immediately when the dog’s behind hits the ground and deliver the reinforcer right after – the dog realizes “ok – putting my behind on the ground is good”. The clicker eliminates the need to deliver the treat as fast as possible. It allows for a gap or bridge between the behavior and the reinforcer.

It is important to note that once the association is established, it is important that every click is always followed by a treat. If you click and you do not treat, you weaken the association.

The reinforcer does not have to be food. Many dogs would love to work for a game of tug, or a Frisbee throw. The reinforcer that comes after the click can be anything the dog wants at the moment and it is important to know your dog and what he/she loves.

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