There’s no better way to communicate with your pet than by using a clicker. In clicker training, you give your pet immediate feedback whenever they perform a desired behavior. It is very important to link rewards to the correct behavior when you train a dog.
Once the pet learns that the clicker is a reward, you will be able to signal at exactly the right time to your dog that he is doing something right. But how do you get started with it?
Training the animal to respond positively to the clicker is the first step. When you first begin, the clicker is always an indication of a treat. No matter what. Even if the clicker goes off by accident or even if the click occurs during bad behavior, the dog must interpret and associate the click with a food treat.
Instead of a normal piece of food, give your dog a special treat like a small cube of roast chicken. Make sure the treat is enjoyable and more exciting than the regular treat or dog food they are normally given.
Start by teaching the dog the association of the click and the treat. The click should be first and then the treat. Be sure that you keep the treats hidden until after you click. Practice at first with just clicking and then giving the treat so they can make the association. Do this for a few days.
Clicks should be used very specifically after a pet has learned they mean treats. When you are building a relationship with your animal, a click is the owner’s way of saying, “this is good behavior and you get a treat.”
Never use the clicker just to get their attention. If you do, the clicker loses its meaning, and your pet is unable to understand the message.
As soon as the dog understands that clicking is a good thing, you can start to scale back on the treats. It’s still important to give a reward, but instead of chicken, it might be dog food, or a pat behind the ears, or even a “good boy!”. The dog will work for clicks as long as the click is followed by a reward.
The reward is a response to your immediate feedback of a click. The pet will be rewarded with a click when they behave well, making it easier than ever to communicate what you want them to do.
Getting a dog to do what you want can be difficult, especially if the dog is older or has had bad experiences. Clicker training your dog should be fun and rewarding for both of you, but it’s not always easy to get started. Some training methods rely on intimidation and negative reinforcement. This isn’t the best method as dog behaviorists and research has shown.