Looking for an effective way to train your dog or cat? The best way to train an animal is through positive reinforcement, like clicker training. Clicker training, a scientifically-based training method, helps teach your pet what kind of behavior you want from them. It is not only effective, it’s also a safe, gentle way to train your animal.
The point of clicker training is to condition the behavior of your pet. At first, a “click” is used simultaneously with a treat, so your pet learns to associate the click with the food reward. Marker training is similar – good behavior is marked by saying the word “good” or “yes” to your pet instead of a click. Whether you use a clicker or your voice, or some other “reward”, it’s important to mark the behavior to correctly train your pet.
Why use clicker training instead of just a treat? Clicker training reinforces the behavior much faster than just giving a treat. By clicking at the exact moment your dog or cat gets a behavior right, you can continue to reinforce that specific behavior. Clicker training is also a great way to teach your pet (yes, even your cat) tricks.
Here’s how to get started:
- Charge the click.
Follow every single click with a treat. To begin, click behavior that you like, such as when your cat or dog sits, and then reward your pet with a treat or small piece of food. By keeping food rewards small, you can help your pet stay on track with their diet.
- Get the timing right.
Click while the behavior you want is in progress, not after. This helps to reinforce the behavior in your pet’s mind. You don’t have to give them a treat right at the same moment – that’s what charging the click is for. A clicker allows you to catch good behavior as it is happening and reinforce it.
- Teach in stages.
Say your main goal is to have your dog go lie down in his crate. Start with clicking when your dog lies down. Then, click when your dog moves toward his crate. Then click when your dog goes into his crate. It’s important to reinforce even small efforts towards the behavior you want your pet to do. Eventually, they will piece it all together – then you only have to click once to reinforce the entire behavior.
- Get your animal to the “cue” stage.
Your dog or cat may start to complete behaviors you’ve trained them to do, even when you haven’t ask for it. Who can blame them? They’re trying to get a click (and a treat). Now is the stage when you can begin to teach them “cues”, or verbal commands to get them to complete the behavior. Only click when they obey a verbal cue now, not when they do it of their own volition.
- Train for short amounts of time.
Keeping training sessions short helps clicker training stay fun for both you and your pet. Work on one behavior for a few minutes, and then end the session.
With clicker training, you can effectively train your pet to perform the behaviors you want them to through positive reinforcement. Good luck with your training!