Last Saturday i spent a fantastic day with a great group of people and dogs teaching them clicker training. This course is one of the favourites i teach. My aim as the instructor is to teach and inspire and on Saturday judging by peoples enthusiasm i achieved this.
Clicker training is becoming an ever increasingly popular way to train dogs and many people are already achieving great results in training all sorts of exercises to pet dogs as well as top competition dogs. I have used this method with great results to train pet dogs, help with problem dogs and train complex tasks to some of the countries top display dogs. In addition to the fantastic results I have achieved with dogs I have used the method with outstanding success to train many other species including Reindeer, Llamas, Pigs ,Skunks, Coatis and a Raccoon dog.
Although many think of clicker training as something new, the science behind the techniques and principles can be traced back to the work of Pavlov (1849-1936) , who discovered classical conditioning and B F Skinner (1904-1990), who believed behaviour to be influenced by consequence and through experimentation with rats and pigeons discovered operant conditioning. I have personally been using this method for over 15 years alongside other training techniques.
The fantastic thing about clicker training is that any dog no matter what personality, breed, size or age will adapt and can be taught successfully using the technique regardless of any previous training.
Clicker training done correctly is simple, incredibly effective and most importantly fun for owner and dog. Clicker training works using the principles of positive conditioning sometimes referred to as positive reinforcement. You will find that by using a clicker correctly you create a communication pathway between you and your dog, which in practical terms means you can clearly and precisely mark the exact moment when he has done something you want – it gives you the ability to speak dog!!
The power of using a clicker is that you can capture a precise action and relay that information back to the dog in a way he understands. It gives you the ability to be so specific in what you are rewarding that the dog is able to learn really quickly and is actively engaged in using his brain to learn a task. It works by marking and rewarding the right action so your dog is more likely to repeat the action- this in essence is positive reinforcement.
Using a clicker will also enable you to reward actions performed by the dog when he is a distance from you for example when a dog is 50 metres away from you and turns towards you quickly in response to a recall command using the clicker you can tell him that by turning quickly he has gained a reward although you will not be able to give him the treat or praise until he returns to you. Without the clicker or another conditioned marker it would be impossible to relay that information and you would therefore not have the ability to reinforce the action of turning quickly.
Before you can use clicker training to train with your dog, you must first condition him to the sound of the clicker- he needs to understand that the sound of the click means he’s done the right thing and he will receive a reward. What you use as a reward is up to you , it can be food, a toy or praise, but it needs to be something your dog really likes . A high reward is particularly important when you first start. I find that tiny pieces of a high value food reward like Natural Instincts beef jerky tend to work really well.
The film shows me using the clicker to teach Sky my 2 year old collie distance control.