What is clicker training?
Chirag Patel, clicker training expert, explains
Clicker training is based on the psychological principle of positive reinforcement. Trainers focus on what the animal is getting right and reward it, rather than punishing an animal for doing something wrong.
These principles will work with any creature. A dog, a dolphin or a person – all are more likely to repeat an action that earns them a reward. With animals, the best reward is usually food but it may be something else they find motivating, such as praise or a game.
Animal trainers have discovered that using a marker helps communicate to an animal the exact behaviour or action that earned it a reward. This marker is usually a sound, most commonly that made by a small metal clicker toy. Thus ‘clicker training’ became the popular term to describe this type of reward-based training.
After every click the animal receives a reward. Very quickly the animal understands that the click means a reward is coming and it will try and repeat the behaviour that caused the trainer to click.
When teaching an animal, clicker trainers can wait for it to do something they want to teach it, or they can lure the animal to show it what they want. For example, if you want to teach your dog to lie down when asked, you can begin by clicking and giving him a treat every time he happens to lie down. Or, you could lure your dog into lying down by holding some food under his nose and taking it down to the ground so that in following it he lies down. (Both methods work for Clickety Dog!)
Once your dog understands that lying down earns him a reward, you can introduce a command or ‘cue’ for the behaviour ‒ the word or the hand signal you want the dog to respond to by lying down. In this way your dog will learn what you mean when you say ‘down’ or use your hand signal.
When you see trained animals in films and on TV (Pudsey, recent winner of Britain’s Got Talent is a great example) you can be pretty sure they have been clicker trained. A version of clicker training, TAGteach is used with people. It started with sports coaching but is now being introduced for training in schools, homes and businesses.
Clicker training is used all over the world. It’s a fun, kind and effective way to teach dogs and other animals. Best of all, this type of training will build a relationship based on trust and confidence. Instead of suppressing your pet’s character and personality, you will be encouraging their growth.
Chirag Patel PG Cert (CAB), BSc(Hons), DipCABT
Clicker training in the game
Clickety Dog is a game for mobile phones and other devices which simulates this popular and effective method of training animals.
In the game, you can:
- Click an on-screen clicker (or use a real one) to affect your dog's behaviour
- Lure with a finger swipe on the screen to show your dog what you want
- Cue a behaviour (e.g. asking your dog to sit or lie down) by touching a button
Just as in real life, your on-screen dog will not always respond immediately to being clicked, lured or cued! Consistently clicking at the right time will lead to a more focused dog. Incorrect or badly timed clicks will confuse your dog and make it more likely to repeat the wrong behaviours.
Players get their own feedback with sounds, scores rosettes and, finally, cups to show them how well they are training their dog.
Download free, fun Clickety Dog desktop wallpapers in a choice of colours
Clicker training real dogs
In the game your dog will behave very much as you might expect – but we have to admit it's not quite, er .... real. Here's the best video introduction to clicker training real dogs that we've seen
With thanks to Kikopup on YouTube
If you use, or are thinking of using, clicker training with your own pets, the video below offers a handy way to practise your timing.
It's one of a number included in the Clickety Dog app where you'll benefit from real-time feedback!
To make it even more realistic, you should practise the purely mechanical skills of timing your click and delivering a treat. You’ll need your own clicker, some real treats (or just something of an equivalent size) and a pot.
This video has been speeded up! Decide if you're clicking sits or downs and get started - every time you click remember to put one of your treats into the pot.
To learn more about clicker training – as well as playing the Clickety Dog game (!) – a good starting point is Karen Pryor Clicker Training