Taken from his introduction to the Clickety Dog game for mobiles and tablets, pet behaviour and training consultant, Chirag Patel explains the principles of clicker training – and the best way to get clicker training practice.
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.
Click & reward
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 in the Clickety Dog game!
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 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.
Clicker training practice
Before you start clicker training your dog, it’s a good idea to practice your timing with the clicker. You’ll find a very detailed guide to practicing clicker mechanics on the Karen Pryor Clicker Training website.
The closest to practising with a real dog, is to practice first with a virtual one.
Clicker training practice with Clickety Dog
Clickety Dog is the only game that simulates real-life dog training with a clicker. There are plenty of individual games to help you practice your clicker timing, and you have your own virtual dog to train by clicking, luring, shaping and ultimately cueing behaviours to enter competitions and win prizes.