A Short Introduction To Clicker Training;
What is a clicker?
A clicker is similar to a little crackpot frog. It is made of plastic and has either a metal tongue or a plastic button, which creates a click-click sound when pressed on. Theoretically, you can also use a pen or other object with which you can create a consistent sound.
What is clicker training and what is it good for?
The “click” acts as a conditioned reinforcer. After clicking there is always a reward . The dog learns very quickly that this sound announces a reward. Dogs are best learned through trial and error or success with this training method amazingly fast successes. Together they work out the respective learning objectives step by step. And the dogs are working, focused, motivated and happy.
How it looks like, Merlin shows:
Okay … what am I supposed to do with it ??? May be put it on the paw? ”
“Nope, apparently not …
..I’ll try my nose … ”
“Juchhu, missus clicked … that was right! I get a treat :”
What is there to consider in clicker training?
Man has to rethink. We have mostly learned to pay attention to mistakes and to criticize and correct them. In clicker training, we focus on the things that make the dog right. So it’s not about “getting used to” a dog, but using the clicker to encourage behavior that we would like to see instead. The dog learns very quickly that this alternative behavior “brings more”. Through the “click” and the reward (treat), the dog will show the desired behavior more often.
So you “click” in every direction – even the smallest step – in the right direction of the desired behavior. And for every “click” there is also a treat – for EVERY “click” – even if you have “accidentally” clicked or the dog then but at the moment of the “clicks” has already done something else “wrong”. Because the dog can not help if we click too slowly or accidentally; o) Every “click” means a treat. Even if the dog does not accept it, because he may just be distracted or stressed – but at least we have to offer it to him.
When and why do I use the clicker?
The clicker is not only helpful if you want to teach the dogs funny or useful tricks, but also in everyday education. With the help of the clicker you can e.g. also gradually redirecting undesirable behaviors, such as passer-by, barking in certain situations, and much more, by encouraging the alternative desired behavior, e.g. Master / Mistress, sit down or be quiet. Also in the puppy education the clicker is very helpful. Be it in education for housebreaking, first exercises, such as sitting and sitting or walking on a loose leash. One simply encourages the behavior when the puppy shows it on his own. He then quickly learns what behavior “brings” him and what does not.
Why do I need a clicker for that? Can not I also use a word of praise?
Of course you can also use a word of praise. But the clicker has some advantages:
you can reinforce the dog to the fraction of a second exactly
It is a short and succinct sound and clearly understandable to the dog
The click sound is always the same and detached from our current emotions because our voice adapts to our mood, whether we like it or not
It stands out clearly from the noise in the area
The dog can also sense it well at a distance
Nevertheless, it may be helpful to additionally “condition” a special word of praise, such as the clicker – a word that also always promises a treat. Because not always you have the clicker at hand to be able to confirm a behavior that the dog spontaneously shows and we like it.
Here are some examples of clicker words: Yes, Good, Yip, Yup, Click
Tip: If you have several dogs, each dog should get its own clicker word. The words should also be clearly different from the sound. So you have the opportunity, for example, during a walk to reward a dog specifically for a particular behavior. Because it can be that the other dog does something we do not like at the moment. And we do not want to encourage that ;
How do I start with clicker training?
First, the hitherto meaningless “click” sound has to become a conditioned reinforcer. To do this, your dog must learn that the “click” promises a reward (such as food or play).
That’s is quite easy. Prepare some treats – something your dog likes very much: e.g. small pieces of poultry-Wiener, cheese or fried liver – and then it starts. Best in a quiet, distraction-poor environment – for example, alone with the dog at home in the living room. Take the clicker, create the “Click-Clack”, then grab the treats immediately and give it one. You repeat the whole thing a few times. After 5-15 times almost every dog has understood:
Always just “click” and “treats” – do not say anything and ignore it when the dog begins to fidget or jump up at you. Give him the treat from his right hand, sometimes from his left hand, roll it over the floor or throw it at him. Test out what works better: give the treats from your trouser pocket or a feeding bag or if you place a plate with the treats on a table or on a shelf next to you.
Then do the test. Click when the dog looks in a different direction. Does the head fly towards you in joyful anticipation of a treat? Great – the clicker is conditioned!
A first exercise might be to click when he looks at you. This exercise is also very helpful later to be able to direct the attention of the dog specifically to you.
Just wait without saying anything or otherwise alerting you
Is he looking at you?
Practice this for about 5 minutes 2-3 times a day, in different rooms. And then under increasing distraction (for example, if there are other dogs or people in the room). If it works more and more reliably, you can start to say a word, such as “Watch”, “Look” or “Look”, the moment he does. The next step would be to say the word and only click when he looks at you directly. If he does not, then it is still too early for the word signal. Practice as before. Even if there are problems later on, with other exercises, it is usually because we are too impatient and increase the level of difficulty too fast.
“On and Ausschaltrituale” and why they are useful.
When it is worthwhile to work and when not, you should give your dog to understand with the help of a small “on and Ausschalttrituals”. To do this, we initially take a few treats and move them back and forth so that the dog moves with it and encouragingly asks something like “Do you want to do something?” If we feel he is now attentive and involved , we give him 2-3 “gifts” (= click / feed, click / feed, click / feed) without the dog having to do something about it. Just for presence, attention and because he has such beautiful eyes; o) And then you go. Anyone who wishes can also introduce another word, such as “Action” to encourage him to offer something.
If we want to pause or stop the exercise session for a while, we say another word to the dog, such as “pause” or “end” to “turn it off”. At the same time we should visibly put away the clicker and relax ourselves and poke holes in the air until our dog no longer looks at us expectantly. He may then do what he wants (snoop around, lie down, etc.) until we turn it on again …
If we do not do that and talk to somebody in between, or even think about what we want to practice next, but the dog is still in “operational mode” and continues to offer us great things but does not get anything, he may be demotivated quickly and does not work so happy the next time. If we are unlucky, he might even show just what we’ve just been waiting for all the time – but do not get it … and the dog does not offer it anymore because it was not worth it for him.
As clicker dogs love to work, something else can happen to them, which can be quite annoying in the long run. Because before you know it, you have a dog that nudges or brings something to your nose or paw – even in situations where you just want a quiet dog …
Is it possible to work on several exercises at the same time?
Yes, of course – otherwise it would be boring not only us, but also our dogs very quickly: o) But they should not be too similar, so it is not confusing for the dog.
How long should a training session be?
Brevity is the soul of wit. From time to time a few short practice intervals of 1-2 minutes and corresponding short breaks in between, as once 30 or even 60 minutes at a time. It does not matter if you practice daily or only 2-3 times a week. Depending on your mood.
5-10 minutes per day with 2-3 exercise intervals, 1-2 minutes are enough for the beginning completely. If you want you can practice in the morning, at noon and in the evening. Of course you can also train over the period of one hour, e.g. together with friends or in a group lesson in a dog school. But you should always stop when it is the most beautiful and the dog had a lot of fun and just had a sense of achievement. The more he looks forward to the next clicker unit and then is back in the thing. If a new exercise does not work at all and you have the feeling that you are stuck and somehow nothing works, you should ask before the end of the exercise again something very simple what the dog likes to do and good, so the exercise with a Success can be completed. Often it has already happened that this exercise, if you practice it again 14 days later wll, the dog at once right now, what you wanted from him at that time … he just had to think about it a bit.
When and how do you introduce the word signal for an exercise?
Let’s take the example of “watching” from above. New exercises initially require frequent repetition. On average, it is said that the exercise should be repeated on several days and at different locations in total about 50-100 times before you take a word signal. This means that in the beginning we only practice with auxiliary signals (gesture, hand signals, aids, etc.) as well as “click & feed”, ie let the dog work independently and without a word signal.
The word signal is introduced only when the dog has really “understood” what it is about. This can be assumed, if one manages to give 8-12 times per minute to “click and delicious”. Let’s say we want to “watch” as a word signal. Then we say the word “show” in the next exercise session, first wait a second, then 2-3 seconds, and then add the auxiliary signal as a supplement. After a while, the dog will start responding to the word signal, as he would like to eat more quickly: o) As soon as half of the attempts already work on the word signal, there is only click & feed when the dog starts the exercise executes the word signal.