Clicker training is based on using a click (made by a clicker) to let your pet know when he has done something correctly. Although it is used mainly for dogs, it can be used for other pets including cats, birds and even rats. More Th>n have some helpful videos that can guide you through the process too.
The basis behind clicker training
The first step is to develop a link between the click and getting a reward, for instance giving your pet a treat each time he hears a click. Soon he will consider just getting a click to be a reward. Once this happens you can use a click to tell your pet that you are pleased that he has carried out your instruction; for instance when you tell him to sit click and give him a treat. Thus the click assumes a meaning. Your pet takes it as informing him that what he was doing when he heard the click was the right thing to do. Let’s go through the process step by step, and for this we will assume you are training a dog.
Step 1 – Associating the clicker with receiving a treat
Set aside half an hour to an hour for this. Have plenty of treats at hand. Hold a treat in one hand and the clicker in the other. Click once while presenting the treat to your dog then take another treat in your hand.
Ignore your dog and do something else; watch TV or read a book for a few minutes then repeat the above click and treat process. Keep on doing this using random time intervals between the clicks and treats. When your dog starts looking expectant of a treat when he hears a click, you will know that you are making progress.
Step 2 – Basic training
Training sessions should be around 15 minutes otherwise your pet might lose interest. For now it is important to follow-up every click with a treat. Decide on up to three things you want to train, for instance to sit, down, or raise a paw.
Repeat the first of these 10 times clicking and rewarding when he does it correctly, have a short break, then move on to the next.
Of course you need to find ways of persuading your pet to perform the required action. There are a number of ways of doing that and with clicker training you use the same methods as in conventional training, for instance gently pushing down his hind quarters when you say sit, and when he does clicking and rewarding.
Step 3 – Advanced training
Once your pet has learned the basic behaviours you should stop using the clicker for those specific behaviours. He should by then just do what he is told. You can now move on to more advanced behaviours using exactly the same clicker training technique as described above.
Disclosure: this is an advertorial post not written by Julie.
Julie’s notebook recommends The Dogs Trust for training advice.