Dog Clicker Training
(Training the Dog is Important)
Clicker training is a simple concept—you use a sound to “mark” a desired behavior, so that you can reward it and increase the probability of it occurring again. Marking a behavior the instant it occurs allows you to deliver specific, useful information to the dog in a timely fashion. The clicker offers you the best possible timing; it actually makes it easier for the dog to learn.
You could also use a short word (“yes,” “wow,” “right,” “bink”) in place of the clicker, but our dogs hear us talk all day. The sound of the clicker is unique, something not in the dog’s usual auditory environment, and the clicker doesn’t carry any of the vocal shadings of our verbal communication (saying “yes” in a happy, upbeat voice versus saying “yes” through teeth clenched in frustration).
The clicker also lets you “build” a behavior by clicking and rewarding the rough be- ginning steps and working bit by bit toward the final, finished picture. With a clicker, you can accomplish things that would be difficult if not impossible to achieve any other way.
Because clicker training doesn’t use force, it works particularly well with fearful or insecure dogs. It can be managed by children and seniors, even with large-breed dogs. (For dogs that are fearful of the clicker, you can train using a bridge word as an alter- nate marker. See Chapter 5 for more information.) It’s useful for breaking through problems in teaching, and for increasing attention. You can work with a dog of any age or size—eight-week-old puppy to eight-year-old adult, Italian Greyhound to Irish Wolfhound. Even deaf dogs can be clicker trained, using a light in place of a click as your marker.
But best of all, with clicker training the dog is an active partner. Instead of having training done to him or her, the dog participates actively and eagerly, and actually learns how to learn.