German Shepherd Training Series – Clicker Training
Thus far in this series, we’ve covered all of the basic dog commands you need to start out with when owning a new dog. We want to give a big thank you to you for following us on our German Shepherd Training Series. If you’ve read through our previous posts, you’ll notice that the underlying concept required in training your dog or puppy is positive reinforcement. That is, in short, you reward your dog for being obedient to your commands or for his good behavior in general. Again, for readers who are new to this series, we have emphasized several times that dogs, German Shepherds in particular, are very smart and intelligent, and they are always observing their environment to determine which actions/behaviors are rewarded and which ones aren’t.
With that in mind, one of the important tips used not only in dog training, but also in training other animals is the appropriate use of positive markers. By associating your dog’s actions with a unique sound, your dog will learn that whenever you say “Good,” it means that his actions/behaviors are acceptable to you and can be rewarded. Now, onto the core of today’s post, which is an extremely valuable German Shepherd training strategy, clicker training. Clicker training for dogs have come a long way since it was initially discovered as a means to train dolphins. Similar to you, as the dog owner, saying “Good” to mark a good behavior, the sound of a clicker used during one of your dog’s favorable actions let your dog know that his specific behavior will lead to a reward. The clicker is a small palm-sized plastic box with a metal tongue in which you push quickly in order to produce a distinct sound. The clicker is also one of the invaluable tools that is often used in dog training.
So, how can we implement a simple clicker training for your dog? You can set up a daily routine to teach your dog that whenever he hears a clicker sound, he gets a treat! For example, while watching TV or reading a book with your dog in the living room, be sure to beforehand prepare a container of treats within your reach. You can place a treat in one hand and the clicker in the other. At this point, your dog will probably go towards the treat. If this happens, be sure to close your hand with the treat and wait until your dog leaves you alone. Then, click once and open your hand which has the treat. Continue these steps for numerous times a day and soon enough, your dog will be well-accustomed to the sound of the clicker.
Once your dog is accustomed to the sound of a clicker, you can next use the clicker as means to reinforce any of the basic dog commands that we’ve went over such as sit, come, stay, and so on. You can think of your clicker as a camera to “capture” your dog’s behaviors which are desirable.
The effectively implement a clicker training for your dog, these 5 points are vital to keep in mind:
1) Timing is everything! You should click only when your dog is behaving desirably. Again, remember that your clicker is a camera, and that you should only click whenever you want to “capture” your dog’s desirable behavior. On the same note, it is also very important as to when you give your dog a treat. Should it be before or after the click? Well, it should always be after the click; can you imagine what would happen if you did it before the click? This would essentially render the clicker useless and ineffective. Also, if, for example, you clicked at a bad time, you should treat the dog anyway as what you’re trying to achieve in clicker training initially is that your dog associates the clicking sound with a treat. Once your dog is accustomed to this, your next goal would be to associate the clicking sound with your dog’s good behavior.
2) Clicker training, like any process of dog training requires lots of patience and commitment! If things are not working out, take a break and get back to it at a later time. You should not feel frustrated during any of the German Shepherd training process. Remember, having a dog and training it is supposed to be fun!
3) If after several sessions you find out that the clicker training is not really working, take a step back and be attentive as to what you may be doing incorrectly. Often times, one of the most common mistakes dog owners make when implementing a clicker training is that they click too late. That is, the click is only done after a particular good dog behavior. Keep in mind that with the clicker, what you need to do is to “capture” these good behaviors. This can certainly require some practice and plenty of attention as to what your dog is doing.
Photo credits: Willie Kalfsbeek @ Flickr
4) The clicker shouldn’t be used to call your dog. For example, if you say “come” and your dog is running away from you, producing a click at this moment will only help your dog to reinforce this undesirable behavior. Many new dog owners do this without noticing it and as a result, your dog will start to unlearn the commands that you have taught him (in this example, the command “come” will be unlearned).
5) You should start the clicker training in a calm and quiet environment so that your dog will not be distracted by other sights and sounds. Only when you feel that your dog has gotten a feel of the clicker training should you make it more challenging. Maybe try a dog park at this point?
With all these 5 tips at your fingertips, you should now be equipped to give your dog some serious German Shepherd training. Most dog trainers would agree that clicker training definitely facilitates your dog’s learning! If you’re wondering where you can get these clickers for your dog, you can almost always find them at your local pet stores; if not, a quick search on the internet will inform you where you can get these online (there are tons of places on the internet which sell these)!
This post is by far the longest post so far, so give yourself a pat on the back for reading all the way to the end. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below!
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