Clicker training! It’s quite a worldwide phenomenon now and many many amazing trainers all over the globe rely on a clicker to train their dog to incredibly high standards. It’s interactive, fun and an effective way to train, but there’s actually a bit of science behind it which makes it such a useful training tool!
Clicker training works on the principles of ‘classical conditioning’. This can be defined as ‘the process of associating a neutral stimulus with an involuntary response, until the stimulus elicits the response’. Ok……..I’ll break that down into English :O If you have a ‘biologically potent’ stimulus, such as treats, you then pair that with an unconditioned stimulus (clicker), and an association is formed between the treat, and the clicker. That neutral stimulus, the clicker, then becomes a ‘conditioned stimulus’, and elicits the same response that the food does.
So, a common example may be every time you open the fridge door, your dog starts to salivate at the lovely chicken in the fridge and you give him a bit to eat. Every time you open that fridge door, he knows the sound of the door opening. He then will pair that sound of the door opening, with the chicken he receives, and will start to salivate at the sound of the door, because he is associating that noise with the chicken he’s about to get!! Another example may be you getting your keys before you go or a walk. Keys are generally pretty unimportant to dogs, they hold no meaning!! However, when you pick up your keys and they make that ‘jingle’ sound, and you then take your dog for a walk he then starts to associate that little jingle with his walk. So, you’ve paired the jingle of the keys, with his walk. So, your keys will become a conditioned stimulus!!
Now……are you all still awake through this??? It may be a bit of slog to read, but it’s important to know the reasons why the tools we use, work the way they do. It also helps in using a clicker correctly. Or any marker correctly for that matter. I talked in my last video about using a ‘marker’, it’s a really good way of telling your dog ‘THAT was exactly what I wanted and THAT is exactly what you are going to get rewarded for!’, in the instant the behaviour is performed. There’s less confusion and less room for error, if used correctly, and really helps your dog to figure out what will get rewarded. It helps to encourage a dog to think for himself, and makes a dog more inclined to try varying behaviours to see which get rewarded, and which don’t. And we LIKE that, we LIKE dogs having choices and trying to work out what is working and rewarding and what isn’t!!!
Personally, I don’t use clickers for everything, but have used one for teaching my dog certain things. For example, to teach ‘go to your bed’. I also try to use a clicker on any behaviour which in my mind needs to be captured in a split second. Clicker training is great fun, just make sure you’re using them in the right way. Just remember, your clicker is not there to tell your dog what to do, it’s there to tell your dog it did something right!!
If you need any help getting started with clicker training, or advice on how to correctly use a clicker and how to mark behaviours effectively, just get in touch! Always happy to help with some clicker training fun.
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