The simplest option is to use the dog training clicker out of the numerous dog training methods. But is a dog clicker really effective? Here’s a complete guide to using the dog training clicker for enhancing your dog training experience.
What Are Training Clickers?
A children’s cricket toy inspired the idea of a clicker or cricket with a hidden beeper in it. The term “training clicker” refers to a small noise-making gadget with a metal strip that makes a strong clicking sound when pressed.
Trainers use clickers to precisely indicate a certain behavior when training a dog. When the dog completes a specified task during training, the trainer presses the clicker button.
The instant sound from the clicker identifies the specific behavior swiftly and precisely and informs the dog that he has done it the right way. A reward follows it in the form of a treat, praise, or applause, which reinforces that specific behavior with time.
Clicker training is an application of Operant conditioning in which another condition the presence of one stimulus (for example, food) (for example, a sound before the food) brings about a desired response in the animal.
It uses positive reinforcement in which the conditioned reinforcer is the sound of a clicker after a certain behavior, and the primary reinforcer is the food or a reward.
When the dog can relate the reward with the clicker sound after a few precise practices, the clicker’s sound after completing the task will then be enough to inform him that reward is on its way.
This will positively reinforce a certain desirable behavior in the dog. You will understand it by one simple example. When a father wants to take his three-year-old son out for a ride, the first thing he does is pick up the car keys.
After a few times, the child will learn that his father taking him out for a ride is conditioned with him picking up the car keys. So next time when he hears the sound of his father picking up the keys, he will be already prepared to go out.
Are Clickers a Good Training Tool?
Yes! training with clickers is a piece of cake. This training tool is, therefore, better suited for beginners. In addition, because clicker training is an application of Operant Conditioning, your dog will learn in a highly rewarding setting that will encourage him to try new things, adopt new behaviors, and connect with people more effectively.
In contrast to non-reward-based training programs, such types of reward-based training programs can keep training sessions going for extended periods of time.
The identical behavior is repeated multiple times throughout clicker training, but it does not divert the dog’s focus or diminish his enthusiasm in any way. Instead, it’s because the dog will receive an immediate positive response in the form of clickers for his accomplishments.
Since the dog training clicker has such fine timing that flawlessly communicates to your pet what action was anticipated and which accomplishment he is being treated for, clicker training allows dogs to master and embrace complex behaviors swiftly.
Furthermore, clickers are one of the most effective training tools for encouraging the dog and his trainer to form a positive bond.
The Psychology Behind the Clicker Training
The psychology behind this training is really simple. Dogs are quite foodies and love to eat whatever is available to them. Dog trainers have made use of this fact in training dogs using three simple rules.
First, they set some good behaviors, make the dogs follow them, and end the training session by rewarding them. But what’s the role of clickers in this process?
Just after the dog has achieved the desired behavior, trainers press the clicker button, and the dog immediately knows that he has done the right thing and a treat is on its way.
Repeating the training several times, accompanied by a click sound as soon as the dog completes the task and feeding him a tasty treat, encourages the dog to repeat the task over and over again, and he ends up learning it.
How Does Clicker Training Help?
To understand the role of clickers in training, let’s take a few examples. If you want to make your dog sit on the floor as soon as you say “Sit,” how will your dog know how much he has to lay low?
If you want your dog to sit on his four limbs with the body straightening over the hips, you are going to push the clicker button as soon as his butt touches the ground. But if you want him to touch his belly to the ground, you will push the button after he has done so.
The click sound will let the dog know whether you want him to touch his butt or his belly on the ground. Then reward the dog immediately after it.
In some distance training sessions, you cannot reward the dog immediately. For instance, if you want him to pick a ball that you threw away, you are not going to run towards your dog and give him a treat.
So how will the dog know if my master wanted me to pick the ball and I have done the right thing? That is where the clicking sound comes in.
Though you cannot reward him the exact moment he picked up the ball, you can let him know he has done the right thing by clicking the button immediately. Then, he will definitely know I am going to get the reward afterward.
How to Make Dogs Become Accustomed to Clicker Sound?
Some expert dog trainers don’t need to make the dogs familiarize themselves with the clicker before training them. Instead, their expertise in the field makes it easy for them to acquaint the dogs with clicker sound simultaneously with the training.
Well! Suppose you are thinking of training your dog by yourself, or you have a puppy who knows nothing about even the basic commands.
In that case, you need to make him accustomed to the sound that a clicker produces before you begin training him on a specific behavior.
The first step, in this case, is to make your pup realize that the sound of the clicker is associated with something really pleasant for him, for example, a treat, a clap, or a pat.
Whenever the sound of a clicker goes ‘click,’ your puppy will begin to wait for the treat or a pat. You must do this step somewhere really quiet or else; the sounds in the surrounding can distract your dog from the actual sound of the clicker.
Once your dog has realized that the clicking sound corresponds to a treat or something else very pleasant, you can use the clicker to mark an action of him. For example, you will say ‘sit’ (use hand gestures to instruct him if he doesn’t know what ‘sit’ means), when he sits, you will press the clicker instantly.
Once the dog hears the sound, reward him for sitting at your command. That’s how he will begin to link rewards for following the orders with the clicker.
Your dog is ready to be trained; you can now begin the ‘actual’ dog training!
Some Tips for Using Clicker
Just holding the dog training clicker in hand and pressing the button is not all that matters. You need to know a few things that will make the training effective. The foremost thing is the timing of the click. The dog must hear the clicking sound right after he has done the task.
For instance, when you say “come,” don’t press the button just because the dog has started walking towards you. It will make the dog think that I just have to walk toward the owner; whether I reach him or not doesn’t matter.
So, to get the right behavior out of your dog, press the button once he has reached you. Moreover, feed the dog right after clicking the button, don’t delay it.
It’s a clicker, not a remote control. You don’t have to point it towards the dog. Keep the training sessions short. Give him breaks. Training without breaks will make him bored and exhausted. Furthermore, a single click is enough; there is no need to push the button twice or more.
Some dog training clickers have a loud click, and most dogs get scared. In that case, wrap the clicker in a few pieces of acoustic fabric. When your dog becomes accustomed to a clicking sound of specific intensity, remove one piece now, the click will be a bit louder than the previous one, but soon, your dog will become accustomed to it too.
Some clickers have the option to adjust the volume, and there are many other ways to dampen the clicker sound, like using a medical tape. Use the clicker outside the training sessions to make dogs accustomed to the clicker, like before dinner or breakfast.
Types of Dog Training Clickers
For training your dog, you can use one of the following clickers:
Soft clickers work best for sensitive dogs. Dogs can easily get scared if the clicking sound is way too loud. A soft, consistent sound will make the dog learn more as long as rewards accompany it.
Many companies and brands have invested in soft clickers like SunGrow and Karen Pryor. Their major focus is on making the clickers that fit in the palm of your hand and help the sensitive dogs overcome the fear of loud alarming clicks.
Loud Yet Adjustable Clicker
Most clickers have an adjustable volume option in them. These are called adjustable clickers. One can increase or decrease the volume as per the dog’s tolerance. So go for it if you can get the dog’s attention with a low volume.
There’s no need to scare him. But if you think the click is not audible enough or the dog is not responding to it, you can increase the volume to the level where he starts responding well.
Some companies like Frisco have got the clickers with the loudest click, yet many of them have the option to adjust the intensity.
Ring clickers fit comfortably in the finger, and the dog owner does not have to hold them separately. These clickers are for you if you want to carry out the best dog training ever.
You can easily hold the treats in your hand with the clicker on your finger. Your hands won’t be overloaded. As a result, you can treat the dog right after giving the clicking signal. The finger strap attached to the clicker is adjustable in such a way that you can rotate it and easily push the button with your thumb.
Clickers with Wrist Strap
Some clickers have an elastic wrist strap instead of a finger strap. The dog trainer can wear it like a bracelet and focus more on the dog to get good behavior from him.
It is my favorite clicker as it is a small training tool with easy holding. Dog trainers can easily train dogs with their complete focus on making the pup do the most productive tasks.
Properties of Best Dog Clickers
A clicker is a handheld device that fits in the palm of your hand. Ergonomic design includes the one with the teardrop shape that has an elastic strap to be worn on the wrist.
They have an easy-to-push button that only needs a small amount of pressure. Some have a removable wrist strap and can be attached to a belt loop or at the end of a bag. People in a wheelchair or with an arthritic hand can easily use this type of dog clicker.
Similarly, a handheld clicker in which the button sticks out for pressing it conveniently with a finger strap is also considered an ergonomic design. This type of dog clicker can help you with multi-tasking.
Alternatives to Clicker Training
Clicker dog training is not the only option. There are several other markers for letting the pup know he has done the right thing and it’s time for a treat.
These include verbal and visual markers. The psychology behind them all is the same; the only difference is in the type of indicator.
When a dog performs a specific task, right at that moment, you can say, “Good job,” “Good dog,” “That’s my dog,” or simply a “Yes.” Though dogs cannot speak human language, they can understand certain words.
These are not the words they grasp but the tone and body language that helps to train the pup. Many researchers believe that dogs comprehend human words just like an infant do.
Both focus more on happy and angry tones to do or to refrain from something. If you neither want to speak out nor you want to hold a device in your hand, try out a dog whistle. It works well, just like other clickers or spoken words.
Dog trainers can also train the dogs with the help of visual markers. They use different gestures like a thumbs up, okay, victory sign, or even a fist.
The dog learns that my trainer always makes this sign when I accomplish a task and feeds me. In this way, he becomes accustomed to it and performs even well. These non-verbal markers work best for deaf dogs, but other pups can also become used to them.
Marker Training for A Blind Or Deaf Dog
You probably wonder how a blind or a hearing impaired dog gets his training. You can use the verbal markers for the blind dogs and the visual markers for the deaf ones.
A flicker can also be used as a marker for deaf dogs. When one repeats this practice several times, gradually, the dog learns that whenever there’s a light from the flicker, it’s about the time to get a reward. But it doesn’t mean you cannot train the pup who is both deaf and blind. You can pat him on his shoulder.
Are These Alternatives as Effective as Dog Clickers?
In an experiment done at the University of Trieste, researchers found that dogs equally respond to all three main types of marker training. They made three groups, each having 17 dogs. They were being trained to open the plastic breadbox with their muzzle.
The first group was subjected to clicker training, the second group was accustomed to the word “Bravo,” and other dogs in the third group had no such marker.
Instead, they used the visual picture of the trainer bending forward to give them a treat as a marker. All three groups learned the new behavior in the same way despite the fact they were motivated by different markers.
Dog clickers are a great training tool that fits your hand’s palm. Trainers teach the dog a certain behavior or a task, and when the dog achieves that desired behavior, the trainer presses the button on the device.
The clicker produces a “Click” sound, and the dog realizes he has done his job; now it’s time to get a treat. Repeating the training process repeatedly can make the dog become accustomed to the clicker sound and learn that particular task as well.
There are different types of clickers in the market. Some have a quiet click that all kinds of dogs can tolerate, while other clickers have a loud yet adjustable click. The best dog clickers include those having a finger or a wrist strap. The straps are detachable in many clickers. These types of clickers are easy to hold and use.
I hope you find this article helpful. HAPPY TRAINING 🙂