ClickerSolutions Training Articles

Using the Clicker Correctly

The clicker is a tool. It's not a magic box. It's not a gimmick. Used correctly it enables you to do something that other training methods struggled with: communicate exactly what behavior is desired. The clicker is for teaching mew behaviors. Once the dog is freely offering the desired behavior, it's time to fade the clicker and put the reinforcements on a variable schedule.

Think of the clicker as a camera. You want to take a picture of the action that you want repeated. Remember, it's the action that you want to capture, not the end result. For example, to capture the sit, click as the dog lowers his haunches, not after his butt is on the ground.

The click means three things:

  1. You just did something I like. Click and treat any time the dog is doing something you like. Reinforced behavior occurs more frequently.

  2. The behavior is over. The click ends the behavior. If the dog jumps up from the sit immediately after you click, that's okay. Duration is a criteria you can add later.

  3. A reinforcement is coming. Always reinforce the dog after clicking. Even if you click accidentally or at the wrong time, reinforce.

Ways NOT to use the clicker:

  • Don't use the clicker as an attention-getting device or to cue your dog to come to you. Know what? It works. But once your dog understands the real meaning of the click, you'll be reinforcing undesired behavior such as ignoring you or barking at passers-by.

  • Don't use the clicker solely as a praise marker. Timing counts. Yes, your dog will eventually figure out what you want in spite of your bad timing, but he'll learn MUCH faster if he can count on it to mark behavior.

  • Don't use the clicker as a Keep Going Signal. The click always ends the behavior. If you are teaching a multi-part behavior such as a retrieve or the dog walk in Agility, and you want to indicate that one part was correct without ending the behavior, simply substitute a word like "Good" in place of the click.

Melissa Alexander
mca @ clickersolutions.com
copyright 1999 Melissa Alexander

 

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