How to load a clicker for dog training.

Positive training only

I'm not a certified anything trainer but I know a couple things.

If you treat an animal well, it can develop into a confident and loving companion.

If you treat an animal poorly it'll be anxious, fearful, and possibly violent. And you'll be an asshole.

If you've heard of the Alpha or Dominance theories in dogs, I would encourage you to re-evaluate what you've learned with all the latest research on positive reinforcement for training.

Dominance theory in Dogs (and Wolves) has been debunked for many years. Your dog is not trying to be the Alpha.

Debunking the “Alpha Dog” Theory

You Are Not the Boss of Your Dog

What is clicker training?

History of Clicker Training I

Using a clicker (a device that makes a "click" sound) is a highly effective way to communicate desirable behaviors with your dog.

Or any other mammal from what I've read, including cats.

The basic idea is this.

  1. Dog does something you like.
  2. You signal to the dog that they are going to be rewarded. (i.e. the click)
  3. Dog gets reward.
  4. Dog will associate the behavior with the marker (click) and replicate the behavior.

The click is generally thought of as a marker. You are marking an action that will result in a reward, thus reinforcing the value of that action. Which should incentivize the dog to do that action again.

A click could be replaced with a word or any other noise or visual cue if the dog is deaf, but I'll talk about why I like to use a click or a whistle a little bit later.

I don't have the expertise to advise on training deaf dogs so I'll leave that alone.

That sounds all well and good but how does the dog know that a click is going to mean a reward?

You're right dogs aren't born speaking a clicker language. They don't start out knowing that hearing a click noise means a reward is coming. There's nothing magic going on here.

Teaching a dog to understand "click = treat" is the fun part, because it involves letting the dog use its own judgement, and it doesn't really take that long for them to figure it out.

The process is called "loading the clicker". It's probably the easiest thing you'll do all day.

How to load a clicker

I'm going to pretend that you have a clicker (use a mechanical pen if you don't have one).

  1. Go get some delicious treats.
  1. Go find your dog, if they didn't already find you while you were cutting up those awesome treats.
  2. Hold the clicker behind your back, put treats in your other hand, and click.
  3. Immediately after the click give them a bit of the treat.
  4. Repeat this for a while - it doesn't matter what the dog is doing at this point don't try to make them sit or lay down or perform any sort of behavior. Just click, treat, repeat over and over.
  5. Watch your dog for some bit of understanding.
  1. Now you have loaded the clicker and are ready to begin training.

Now that you've loaded the clicker you have a way to mark a behavior that you like and want to see more of.

One more quick rule that can never, under any circumstance be violated.

Once the dog has associated the click with a reward, you MUST reward the dog everytime you click, even if it was an accident, even if 2 milliseconds after you clicked the dog did something it shouldn't do. Every click gets a treat.

Further you should click far more often that you think you should. Most of what we will be doing is shaping behaviors - but that's beyond this post. For now don't worry about giving too much, the more rewards you give out the more your dog will want to pay attention to you and that is probably 90% of the problem when it comes to training most dogs.

Why a click or whistle and not a word?

I'm only speaking for myself here, and there are plenty of real dog trainers out there that might disagree. And truth be told I do often use the word "Good!" in a high pitch and happy voice to mark behaviors, I loaded that word in the same way that I loaded the click.

Here's why I think it's important to use a clicker.

  1. It's faster than you can speak.
  1. It doesn't convey emotion.
  1. This is most important for recall.

Counterpoint, you should ALSO load a keyword

I say you should "also" and not exclusively do this because sometimes you won't have your clicker. It'll get lost or broken, and won't be available sometimes.

Have fun

Keep your training sessions short and fun. If your dog is having an off day cut it short and put the stuff away, try again later.

Think of it as building a friendship with your dog. Dog is mans best friend after all, so try to be a good friend!

#Dog Training