101 (abbreviated course) :-)
Clickers are nothing more
than a little box that makes a noise. It's used as a training tool.
Trainers use this noise as a marker to let an animal know a behavior is
good and you - the dog - are going to get a reward for doing it. This is
also training using positive reinforcement rather than the old out dated
methods of "Do what I say or else" that was commonly used in training
dogs. It was brought to the dog training community by Karen Pryor. She
used it to trained marine mammals, primarly dolphins.
This is one
type of clicker
How does this work?
1. Animal does
something - as in he sits down when your trying to teach him to sit. He
can do this accidentally or be lured into the position. This is called
the behavior in trainer speak.
2. Trainer / owner
immediately uses clicker to make noise which is called
capturing the behavior in trainer language. The
immediacy of this is crucial for the animal to begin to connect the
dots....she clicks when I sit....she must want me to sit... if I sit
I'll get my reward.
3. Trainer / owner
tosses or gives the animal the treat immediately after
clicking. Once again the timing is all important.
Always in this order and timing is
Teaching them the clicker
How do I start with green dog /
To teach a dog anything using a
clicker you have to start by getting him to understand what the clicker
At home, find a place small area
the dog can be confined in without distractions. I use my kitchen with a
gate to keep the dog from wandering away. We have a dog door so I block
that. I pick up the food /water dishes, any toys or chewies that may
catch his attention and since we have crates in the kitchen I close the
doors to them so they can't go in and lie down if they get bored during
this initial process. Once they learn the clicker, them getting bored
won't be an issue. I also only do this when other people won't be coming
in and out of the kitchen distracting us. If my 11 yr. old is there she
has to sit quietly and watch. She can't interact with the dog while we
are doing this.
Have your treats ready. I use
pieces of hotdog. Occasionally I will use cheese or pieces of chicken.
Whatever you use needs to be something the dog considers very yummy.
Something soft that they can swallow quickly and really want more of is
best. It also needs to be small enough that you can give quite a few
pieces of without filling up the dog and large enough they can hear it
when it hits the floor.
I cut hot dogs length wise and then
into pieces about the size of a nickel. For very young 8 - 10 week old
puppies I may also cut those in 1/2 as well ending up with a piece
equivalent to a 1/4 of a nickel.
When I have the dog/puppy confined
in my designated training area and my treats ready I just stand in the
middle of the kitchen with the clicker in one hand and a piece of hot
dog in the other. I wait for the dog to have settled a bit and be
interested in me. Usually they smell food and this isn't a problem.
I then click the clicker and toss
them a piece of food. They don't have to do anything for it. I am just
trying to teach them the sound and that when they hear this sound it
means a treat is going right behind it. I don't say a word through out
this. When they've finished the first piece I do it again. And again.
And again. And again.
If the dog is frightened by the
noise you can put the clicker in a face towel initially to dull the
noise. Most dogs aren't frightened by it. And once they catch on that
the noise means food they all get over it. Sometimes I'll stop and turn
around or move somewhere else in the kitchen and start again.
You'll know he understands the
clicker when he looks up at you for the treat to follow the sound. This
usually happens very quickly.... 10 or 15 pieces of food tossed. Some
dogs, depending on how food motivated they are fast....others may be
harder to tell.
Usually the teaching the clicker
exercise, is completed in easily under 10 min. so I go right on to
teaching the sit in the same session. If after 15 min. or so I am not
sure the dog has it I quit and do it again in a few hours or the next
day. The majority of dogs / puppies clearly get in the first go round.
Teaching them to sit
The hardest part of this is having
patience. You've been throwing food for free up until now. That's done
and you are now upping the anti and expecting something for your
So you just stand there and wait.
They look at you quizzically waiting in anticipation for that next piece
to come falling down from your hand. They can see it but nothings
happening. You can see the puzzlement on their faces in their eyes as I
try and process what happened to make you stop. You stand and do nothing
and say nothing. They start scouring the floor to see if any stray bits
are there and come back and look at you some more. Then they will walk
around and eventually they come back and sit out of boredom. As soon as
their bottom hits the ground click and throw a treat. It's timing so the
better yours is the sooner they'll connect the dots.
Then you go through the whole thing
again. Silently you wait until they sit again so you can click / treat
again. The first few times is the hardest for me because even after all
the dogs I've done this with I still think....aren't you ever just going
to sit? They do. My job is to just be at ready with the clicker and
treat, keep my mouth shut and pay attention so I can click when they
I've watched so many dogs and
puppies learn this and each time you can see them processing it and
trying to figure it out....what do I have to do to get her to throw
those yummy bits again. Most, probably 85%, get it within 10 min. but
some take a little longer. I quit for the day or at least that session
if they haven't gotten it in 30 min. and that includes the time it took
to teach them the clicker. I will go back later in the day or the next
day and repeat the sit exercise again. I've never had a dog that didn't
get it by the end of the second session.
Introducing the command
Obviously you need to teach them to
do this using verbal commands. Wait until you know the dog is going to
do this whenever he sees you with a clicker and treat in hand. At that
point after the dog sits I say to them "Good Sit Fido" as I'm tossing
the treat. I repeat that for a day or so and then I start the next
session with "Sit Fido" before the click / treat. Eventually you'll be
able to just say sit without a clicker or a treat in hand and have them
Squeak is giving is typical with clicker training
The beauty of this
method of teaching is two fold. First they are having to process it
themselves so they learn it faster and when they do learn it they don't
ever forget. They aren't being pulled and pushed into a position that
means nothing to them as it was with the older methods. I've had dogs
take days to get "sit" when you were pushing their rear ends down while
pulling their collars up and repeating sit over and over again.
The other part of teaching
with a clicker that is so great is that your dog will love learning.
I've shared on the obedience page of the web site about my first
Tibetan, Sarah, learning the old fashion way and hating training
although she learned and was very obedient. I was told by a judge at a
match that Sarah won that we needed to work on her attitude about it.
She had that hang dog look that said she wanted to be anywhere but there
doing obedience stuff. When we switched to clicker I got just the
opposite attitude. Everyone commented