With an abundance of information available via the internet, more and more do-it-yourself projects that may have once been mere fantasy are now becoming reality. This is especially true for home dog training, as people have learned that with a little bit of ‘know-how’, anyone with the time and love for dogs can not only save money, but learn valuable skills that transcend being simply a ‘pet owner’, but a trainer as well. All that it takes is a bit of time and enthusiasm, allowing anyone with a healthy dog to happily train at home.
Sure, there is the option to spend thousands of dollars on a professional trainer. Still, consider the difference between a professional trainer and yourself. What skills do they possess that you could not learn and apply to fit your own home? The answer is that there really are none. In fact, by training your own dog at home, you are already a step ahead in the process because you will be training the animal in a familiar environment. This is especially important and certainly not an option at any obedience school for animals. The home training will likely lead to not only quicker results but will be a more comfortable experience for the pet that you love and care for. The fact is, there’s a basic, easy-to-use method that invariably works for virtually all canine breeds: clicker training.
So, what is clicker training?
Clicker training is the simple act of using a reward in order to get your dog to perform the desired action. The reward can vary, but usually is something simple like a small treat or toy – nothing extravagant or expensive. A small treat to reward a dog for sitting on verbal command is probably the most common method, and the most successful. Dogs are smart animals, and they are quick to learn new things. You can teach an old dog new tricks – or simple manners – by using the clicker method.
So why the name ‘clicker’ training?
You want to use a clicker, or any small device to make a low pitched, metallic clicking sound. A good example is an end of most leashes with a retractable end that you can open and let close, causing a slight ‘click’ sound. These metal parts connect to the dog collar, but you just need something of that nature to make a similar sound. A small bell would also work. Anything that is not too loud, or high pitched would hurt dogs’ eardrums.
What are the advantages of clicker training?
There are many advantages. First and foremost, you can train your dog in your own home, at relatively little cost. Secondly, the training will incorporate only the things that you specifically wish to train your dog to do – or not do. So if you allow your animals on your furniture, a regular obedience school would be unlikely to change its curriculum to suit your wishes. That’s true beauty – you are in complete control. As the master, your dog will inevitably respond more affectionately to you than dog any ‘professional’ to begin with anyway, so you already have a head start compared to a stranger starting from square one.
Dogs are not exclusive to this method of house training. Cats and other animals can also be trained to vary degrees with this method. True, dogs are more loyal and obedient than their feline counterparts, but contrary to common belief, the feline family is also trainable as well – litter-boxes would not exist otherwise, right? The thing that clicker training relies on on and a great advantage is that you are teaching the animal directions in phases. There are some misconceptions that there is no discipline when using clicker training, but that is simply over-looking the obvious. Physical reprimands are not needed – nor encouraged – as a verbal command, such as a simple, “No” is a workable platform to discourage the behavior.
Once the animal is familiar with the clicker- reward response, it can be applied to an unlimited number of situations, going beyond simple commands and into the fun world of tricks. This will happen in phases, of course, and you do need some patience at first. Once the association has been initially made, however, the rate in which the dog will learn to adhere to directions will be quite fast and impressive – especially for puppies. Essentially you are just establishing your own ‘house rules’ with the animal, and helping him/her learn what boundaries are in place.
What happens after clicker training? Won’t my dog always respond to any clicking sound?
No, not after a transition from the clicker to verbal commands becomes established. This can be accomplished only after combining the two and forming the association first, however. Once the reward is known to result from a command – and click – the dog will respond to the verbal command alone. It may be easier to do this by slowly weening the clicker away from the association, but this doesn’t take long. Or, likewise, you can maintain the clicker throughout, and by combining it with verbal commands not worry about the jingle of your car keys giving your dog a false impression when not training. Additionally, the dog will have come to recognize that a reward is part of the program, so random sounds reminiscent to the clicker will not have any effect without any reward.
So only dogs and cats will respond? What about my pet “…”?
Actually, this is the biggest misconception. Dogs and cats are the most common animals that clicker training is used for at home because they are the two most common pets. The list of animals that respond to clicker training is virtually limitless though: dolphins, birds, ferrets, hamsters, etc. all respond to clicker training. Sure, it’s true that dogs are probably the most responsive, but that is just their canine nature. The real truth is, you can train any animal to adapt – within their own respective cognitive abilities – by using clicker training. So teaching your parakeet new words is certainly an option, as well as showing your hamster how to use an exercise wheel or maze. Anything that professional trainers are capable of achieving can be learned through this easy, simple, and downright fun house-schooling.
Not only will clicker training give you confidence as a pet owner, but it will help give your pets the easiest transition from improper behavior to acceptable behavior. The best part is that you get to be the one in charge of making such decisions, and not invest hard-earned money on the good faith that a professional will have the same pet ethics as you do in your own home. In summary, clicker training is by far the most productive and adaptable way to train any pet, regardless of age or species. All that is needed is a clicker, a reward, a pet(s) and a bit of time to invest in the process. To be honest, clicker training actually turns out to be a fun experience for pets and pet owners alike, while also building a stronger relationship between you and your furry, feathered or fuzzy loved ones.