Is Clicker Training for You?

Have you tried clicker training?  Dog owners who employ the use of clickers are enthusiastic and excited about this method of dog training and say it changes your focus away from correcting negative behaviors to reinforcing positive ones when training your dog.

Clicker Training

Clicker training is easy to learn and very effective.  Simply ‘mark’ the desired behavior by clicking the clicker when your dog performs a command correctly or executes a behavior you want him to replicate.  Be sure you click or ‘mark’ at the exact moment your dog does the behavior then give your dog a treat.   The dog will soon learn that the sound of the click or ‘mark’ means that he did something right, as it reinforces the language between dog and owner by ‘marking’ the exact moment of the behavior you’re attempting to teach or repeat.

Those who are proponents of clicker training say that the sound of the clicker is more effective than communicating with words of affirmation because the dog quickly learns that when he hears the sound of the clicker it means a treat is coming and the behavior he is getting it for has been marked in his mind. Our words, tone of voice, and emotions can be communicated to a dog and convey a message we don’t intend, which may cause confusion. The sound of the clicker is always the same and sends a clear message: Good job!

Learning by positive reinforcement

Clicker training is different from other reward-based training because clicker trained dogs learn to perform behaviors intentionally instead of by habit.  Your dog will want to repeat the behavior because he will have associated it with something he likes.  When animals intentionally perform a behavior to get a certain consequence, researchers say they are learning by operant conditioning, instead of classical conditioning, which results in the dog learning to perform behaviors out of habit. Dogs will repeat what they’ve been trained to do for rewards such as, food, praise, play, affection or something else of value.

Why clicker training works

Researchers believe dogs that intentionally perform or offer up trained behaviors are capable of remembering their initial training for years because the behavior was marked, and they understood what they were being rewarded for.

Correcting negative behaviors

Clicker trainers often believe in positive reinforcement over stern corrections since dogs seldom understand what they are being corrected for unless caught in the act. They prefer to give positive affirmations in the form of clicks to acknowledge good behavior as opposed to punishment for undesired behavior and believe negative behavior will stop with lack of reinforcement. Does this mean that dogs are not corrected? No. It simply means that their good behavior is reinforced. For instance, the dog jumps on the couch, you remove the dog from the couch and positively reinforce when his four paws hit the floor.