If you have a dog, you probably have heard how clicker training is supposed to be more fun (and effective) for both you and your dog. It is also touted as enabling a faster learning turnaround than the more traditional voice command training. Hearing that clicker training is a better option, you may have tried it, or you may be tempted to try it. Before you do, here are some of the tips that we have discovered by researching what leading dog trainers have to say.
The History of Clicker Training
It is always important to know how something works before you delve into the benefits and negatives.
Marion and Keller Breland tried to introduce clicker training in the 1940s and 1950s. As with any new concept, it was not until the early 1990s, when Karen Pryor began giving clicker training seminars to dog owners that the new training caught on.
Pryor, a leading advocate for effective force-free training (clicker training), states on her website:
Clicker training uses a distinct and consistent signal to mark a desired behavior in real time and then follows that signal with a motivating reward. Because animals understand precisely which action earned the click and their reward, they learn new behaviors quickly, easily, and enthusiastically.
Clicker training is touted to be great for the following reasons:
- Ideal for busy families
- Training can be implemented into daily activities
- Children and adults can participate in the training
- Breeders can initiate clicker training and provide puppies that are “house-ready”
These reward-based training sounds a “click” immediately after the dog has shown the correct behavior, and the dog learns they will be rewarded with a treat. The treat is usually in the form of food, but it can also be anything your dog really loves (i.e. a tug of war, a game of fetch, etc.).
Pros and Cons of Clicker Training
Let’s address the most common question that dog owners have concerning clicker training- Is my dog too old for clicker training?
The good news is that clicker training works well with dogs of all ages and breeds. Puppies love it, and even older dogs who have had traditional training take well to it. Since dogs are very much like people, with differing temperaments and personalities, it is good to know that a combination of both the traditional and clicker training can be used.
- The highly rewarding atmosphere that clicker training creates encourages exploration and not to be afraid to try new things
- You don’t lose the dog’s interest or decrease motivation even with doing several repetitions of the same behavior
- Extended training sessions are possible because it is reward-based (versus non-reward-based training)
- Allows animal to learn quickly – your dog knows what is expected and what behavior they are being rewarded for
- Build a strong relationship between the dog and the trainer
- Dogs with low food or toy drive may be more difficult to engage
- If not done properly, positive learned behaviors may not be consistently demonstrated
- More advanced tricks require a lot of knowledge, practice, coordination and precise timing
While a dog is learning a new behavior, you must be sure that you have your clicker handy and enough treats on hand. Once the behavior is learned, you will no longer need the clicker. But beware; your dog may still expect the treat. He may not be satisfied with just receiving your praise.
So, the bottom line is really that you need to use what works best for you, and your dog.