A clicker is a cricket-sounding toy used by many dog trainers. It produces a neutral sound and is ideal to accurately “mark” a dog’s behaviour. Without a clicker your, “Yes” response, although not as accurate as a clicker, will also become a marker. In some of the articles C+T is used to indicate when a clicker could be used.
For many years dog trainers have been searching for a non-coercive training method for pet owners. Although B.F.Skinner in the 1960’s first suggested using clickers with dogs, some of his students had actually experimented with clickers in the 1940’s before using it in marine mammal training. However, it is claimed that clicker training really only began in 1987 and gained momentum from 1992 onwards.
The essence of Clicker Training i.e. Click and Treat (C+T) is that the dog is guided, not forced, into the desired behaviour. Instead of pushing the dog’s hindquarters down to get him to sit, the clicker trainer will now pass a treat over the dog’s nose and eyes which will invariably get the dog to naturally want to sit down. The moment his butt touches the ground, the trainer will Click and then treat. The Click is the short way of saying “good dog” and tells the dog exactlywhat behaviour is being rewarded.
If the dog already knows the sit command, the trainer will first say, “Sit” and then clicks as soon as the dog sits followed by the treat.
The dog actually works for the treat (Primary reinforcer which can be food, ball, affection, play etc.) The click (Secondary reinforcer) is the signal that tells the dog that you are pleased with what he has done and that he is going to be rewarded for it.
The clicker as a tool, when used correctly, will not only teach new behaviours very easily, but the dog becomes an active player in the learning process. If the food is not forthcoming, the clicker-wise dog will try something else instead of sitting quietly waiting for the trainer to respond.
The click means three things:
1. You have correctly done what I wanted you to do.
2. The click signals the end of the exercise. You can do what you like after the click.
3. You definitely will get your treat even if I clicked by mistake.
Before introducing the clicker to the dog, click the clicker in another room, in your pocket or behind your back to make sure that the dog does not react fearfully to it.
If the dog is not afraid of it then start making the association between the click and the treat C+T.
The treat should be something small that the dog can gulp down without chewing.
Start by creating an association between the Click and the Treat.
Place a treat in your closed hand and hold it a short distance from the dog’s nose. As soon as the dog reaches forward to sniff your hand, be ready to click the moment his nose touches your hand. C+T Repeat this process a few times. C+T every time he touches your left hand. Repeat a few more times.
Now move your left hand further away and to the left or right of the dog’s nose also higher or lower so that he has to reach to touch your hand.
Once the dog has mastered this, make it more difficult by letting him touch your hand while it is moving continuously in front of him, then slowly walk away as he follows your hand. You have now actually taught your dog to “Heel.”
The next step will require him to touch your hand twice or three times before you C+T.
For a very good reaction from the dog you let him win the jackpot i.e. you give all the treats in your hand.