Raise your hand if you’ve ever been to a dog training class that used clicker training.
Ok that was silly. If your hand is up, put it down, this is just letters on a page and I can’t see you.
If you have ever been a part of a clicker training class you understand the first class can be confusing. Anywhere from 4-8 people and their dogs of different breeds and colors separated in a room. Every single person staring at the instructor and their demo dog, which may or may not be stuffed depending on the exercise. In each person’s hand is a clicker. If your dog sits when you ask, you “click” and then follow with a food treat. The instructor asks everyone to practice while they walk around to assist each student, and suddenly, clicks are heard all throughout the class. You hear reminders to keep hands out of treat bags, hold completely still, and depending on each dog’s noise tolerance where clickers should be held. Without a right rock star instructor like yours truly (yea, I’m vane), it can seem very militant if done correctly or if you’ve watched way too many horror movies like me it might seem like the beginnings of a cult.
Don’t worry it’s not that way at all. Most instructors who teach clicker training class are very good at making it totally fun. Think of this as learning sign language, facial expressions and body language are all integrated with the way your hands move. The clickers we use aren’t just training tools, they are a gateway into a new form of communication with your dog. A way for a human and dog to properly communicate. Consider it the Pilot of human-dog relations. The clicker is how we tell your dog what they are doing is exactly what we want them to do.
Why not use “good boy” or “yes”?
You definitely can. Some dogs prefer it over the sound of the clicker. However, these are words we might use in everyday life, and they can lose their effect. Also, using a verbal marker (the “good boy” or the “yes”) is typically delivered slower than a click decreasing the chances your dog is going to understand.
Is my dog going to automatically understand what the clicker means?
Just like a person from 1865 wouldn’t understand what a phone ring meant if they were suddenly surged into 2018, your dog won’t understand right away. Side note: I watch way too many movies. Good news, just like that 1865-time traveler we can easily teach your dog what the clicker means. We teach our dog that the clicker means a reward (yummy treat). The easiest way to do this is by clicking randomly throughout the day and then tossing treats in your dog’s direction. Do this at least 10 times a day for a week, the more the merrier. After the week is up your dog should be looking at you for treats when they hear the click. When you see them look to you, congratulations, you can now use the clicker as a training tool. This is a fun exercise to pair with our 50-cookie-challenge. The improvements you will see in your first week of clicker training and cookie challenging should make you hook on a treat pouch and head to class for the good ‘ole dog training cult class.
Samantha Brown, Victoria Stillwell Graduate
Sam graduated with Distinction from the Victoria Stillwell Dog Training Academy. While completing her studies she mentored under Tara. She is a Fear Free Certified Professional and is continuing to seek other ways to expand her knowledge base. Her background as a professional comedian compliments her skills as a trainer. She volunteers at the local shelter and specializes in day training, kitty kindergarten, and class creation.