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Clicker Train your dog - Obedience Training 101

  Clicker training your dog can be a lot of fun. It is a way of training called "operant conditioning".  Operant conditioning is a scientific term that describes the way animals learn from the consequences of certain behaviors.  It goes to the root of how animals learn in their natural world.  One type of operant conditioning  used in dog training is positive reinforcement.

The first people to take operant  conditioning out of the laboratory were Keller and Marian Breland, two students of B.F. Skinner, way back in the 1940's- the used dogs. Later the same technique was used to help train dolphins.  

The Clicker is a small plastic box with a metal strip that makes a sharp, clicking sound when pushed and released. Its value is that the unique sound doesn't get lost in the babble of words we are constantly throwing at our dogs.

It is faster than saying a command and allows the trainer to mark the behavior  being reinforced.  Paired with something the dog finds very rewarding, the clicker becomes a powerful tool for shaping behavior.

Clicker training is a very good method of teaching your dog a new trick.  For example, if you want to teach your dog to touch his nose to an object, you can simple watch him and every time he touches something with his nose, click and treat.

The most important thing with the clicker training is timing - this is what makes this type of training so effective.  You can click simultaneously with the desired action.  The dog gets the association much quicker this way.  Clicker training does not really focus on the clicker or a food reward, it depends on the correct timing and reinforcement.

This type of training mimics Ivan Pavlov's Classic Conditioning.  Pavlov was the first person to discover the correlation between stimulus and response.  He found that if a particular stimulus in the dog’s surroundings were present when the dog was presented with meat powder, then this stimulus would become associated with food and cause salivation on its own. In his initial experiment, Pavlov used a metronome to call the dogs to their food and, after a few repetitions, the dogs started to salivate in response to the metronome whether the food was present or not.

You can teach your dog advanced techniques using the clicker, just remember to teach each new step slowing.  If you want to teach your dog to jump on a chair, pull a string, jump back down and sit.  First teach the dog to jump on a chair - when the dog has this step learned well, add the next step - having him jump on the chair and touch the string - etc, etc.

The steps to Clicker Obedience:

1. Get your clicker and a few treats - the best treats are tiny pieces - like jerky treats, chicken or cheese that you can tear into tiny bits.  

2.  Click then give the dog a treat - this begins the dog's understanding that the click sound means a treat.

3.  Then stop clicking and just wait for the desired behavior. If you want the dog to look at your - click when the dog looks at  you and give him the tidbit.  If the desired command is sit, wait until the dog sits, then click and treat.


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