“Clicker Training” also known as “mark and reward”, is a form of positive reinforcement dog training that incorporates sound and rewards. The Clicker or “marker” communicates the exact moment your dog exhibits the desired behaviour. The timing of the click is therefore essential, and every click must be followed by a reward.
A “clicker” is a small plastic box designed to be held in the palm of your hand, with a button that you push to make a distinctive clicking sound.
Dogs will repeat behaviours that get them what they want, which is why positive reinforcement dog training focuses on rewarding your dog for the positive behaviours you want to see and ignoring the undesirable behaviour. The value of the Clicker is that it tells your dog exactly which behaviour you’re rewarding and creates an efficient language between a human and an animal. By clicking at the right time, you can “mark” the moment your dog did what you wanted, so instead of having to guess what you liked, the click tells your dog precisely what they did correctly.
You need your dog to learn that the click means a reward before you can train them with it.
To begin, choose a quiet space with no distractions. Before you start the training, introduce the clicker to your dog. With a treat in one hand and the clicker in the other, click the clicker once and immediately give your dog the treat. Repeat this a few times so that your dog soon learns to associate the click with a treat.
If your dog smells the treat and tries to get it by pawing, sniffing, or mouthing, simply close your hand around the treat and wait it out until he leaves you alone. Then – click once and immediately open your hand to give your dog the treat. Vary the time intervals so your dog doesn’t know when the next click is coming and eventually, he’ll start to turn toward you and look expectant when he hears the click, which means he understands that the sound of the clicker means a treat is coming his way.
The Golden Rule: With Clicker Training, timing is everything.
Make sure you time your clicks right. Try to click at the very moment when your dog does the thing you are asking for – if the click comes early or late your dog can easily get confused.
Even if you don’t always get the timing of your clicks 100% right, you might accidentally reward the wrong behaviour, but dogs are mostly very forgiving of human error during clicker training, especially when there are rewards involved!! If you clicked a little too early or too late, simply correct it and reward your dog at the right moment the next time.
Keep your training sessions short—15 minutes or less is ideal. Dogs, like children, have short attention spans so make sure you stop training before your pet gets tired of the game, o stop while it’s still fun.