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Introduction to Clicker Training


What is Clicker Training?
Clicker training is a combination of classic conditioning and operant conditioning. "Whatís That?", you say. Classic Conditioning is the act of associating something pleasant with a neutral stimulus. In clicker training it is associating the sound of the clicker with a tasty treat. Operant Conditioning is a theory that states that the immediate consequences of a behavior determine whether on not the behavior will be repeated. In short, "Dogs Do What Works." If a dog gets a reward for a behavior, it stands to reason that he will repeat the behavior to get more rewards. If a behavior results in something negative or unpleasant, the dog will most likely not want to repeat the behavior.

Letís take Counter Surfing as an example. Why would a dog jump up at the counter? To see whatís up there, right? Now, if he finds some tasty food within reach, he just got rewarded for jumping up to check the counter out and he will most likely do it again and again to see if there is something good there. On the other hand, if he jumps up at the counter and finds nothing there (no reward), he will most likely not bother to check it out again. Dogs Do What Works.

Letís try another behavior that many people find obnoxious - Jumping. Dogs that jump up on people are not appreciated. Why do dog jump up on people? They jump to get attention or as a way of greeting their owners. Itís a very natural behavior for dogs, but a behavior that is not well received by most people. When dogs jump up on people their reward is attention, either positive or negative. Positive attention is in the form of hugs and petting. Negative attention is in the form of yelling, pushing them away and kneeing them. As long as they get attention, they keep jumping. You stop the jumping by taking away the attention. Donít hug, pet, yell, push or knee. Just turn and walk away - ignore them. When the dog is calm and all four feet are on the floor, then you can hug and pet him and give him the attention he wants. Soon he will learn that he can get more attention by not jumping. Dogs Do What Works.

Clicker Training or Positive Reinforcement is a way of shaping behaviors by using rewards or praise for good behavior and ignoring or removing the rewards for the behaviors you donít want.
Some Of The Terms Used
"Positive Reinforcement" is something that the dog likes and will work for. It could be food, praise or a toy. This is also call a "Primary Reinforcer." A "Secondary Reinforcer" is something that is connected to a primary reinforcer and which takes on pleasant properties due to this connection. The secondary reinforcer we use in clicker training is the clicker, for example, the sound of the clicker followed by a tasty treat , praise or a toy. "Negative Punishment", the only one that works, is the removal of something pleasant, such as not paying attention to your dog when he jumps on you.

When using positive reinforcement it is important to make sure that the reward is worth working for. Find your dogís most favorite food treat. When using praise, make sure itís both verbal and physical and be lavish with it. If you use a toy, be sure itís your dog most favorite toy. A good example of a toy reward would be to use a tennis ball for a dog that literally goes nuts when he sees his tennis ball.
Why A Clicker?
The reason we use a clicker is because it has a unique sound, it is fast and it is accurate. It has a unique sound that the dog will not confuse with anything else he hears. Itís fast and precise. You can click the instant your dog gives you the behavior you are training for. Is it necessary to use a clicker? Well, no, but your training wonít be as effective. If you donít want to use a clicker you can use a "bridge" word to substitute for the sound of the click. It should be a short word and one that is not commonly heard by the dog. "Yeah", might be a good word to use.
Now that you have some understanding of what Clicker Training is all about, it's time to "Charge the Clicker."








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Introduction To Clicker Training
The Clicker
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