Clicker training is a great way to train your dog and there are many programs advocating success for new and old dog trainers. You can train your dog to do so many things just by using a clicker.
You can use a clicker to train your dog as an “occasion setter” or “with association”. For example, you know how excited your dog gets whenever it hears the bag of treats rustling? Or when you pick up the leash? Your dog has made an association with these activities and knows something good is about to happen. The rustling of the treat bag signals a meal occasion and the leash is associated with going for a walk.
As a result, your dog really focuses on you in anticipation of what’s about to happen. It will offer behaviors like sitting or lying down, or spinning in circles, as if to say, “What do you want me to do? Sit? Beg? Jump? Get you a drink?” In other words, your dog is really excited about what you expect of it, because you have something it really wants!
With this in mind, whenever you show your dog a clicker, you flip that same switch in its head that says something good is about to happen. Your dog really looks forward to the occasion of training sessions and becomes intent on paying attention.
The Dog Clicker As A Connection
The other nice thing about using a dog clicker is that it allows you time to get the treat to your dog. Good dog training is all about the speed of rewarding. The quicker you get the treat to your dog, the more effective your training.
So let’s say you’ve asked your dog to lie down from twenty feet away. As soon as it does, you can immediately click, signaling it did a good job, but then you have several seconds to actually get the food treat to your dog. The clicker acts as a “connection”, signaling the food is coming, but because you marked the behavior with the click, it’s as if you gave the food the instant its behind hit the floor.
Clickers are used to teach your dog a new behavior. When it knows what to do and does it when asked, the clicker is no longer necessary. You can maintain the behavior by using affection like petting and praising your dog, but you can also keep the behavior sharp by using “life rewards”.
A life reward is anything your dog wants that isn’t food related. For example, if you ask your dog to lie down, the reward is going for a walk. If you ask your dog to sit, the reward is chasing a ball. Clicker training is all about positive reinforcement, so it’s a terrific way to train your dog and have fun at the same time!