No method of training an animal is perfect. Period. There are pro’s and con’s about all animal training protocols. Clicker training is no different.
Clicker training is a fun, exciting, accelerated learning program that has well-documented success. Is it the only training recommended by experts?
Of course not. But, there are so many positive attributes to clicker training that is important to look at some of the misunderstood aspects of this positive reinforcement animal training method.
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Below mentioned are 5 common myths about dog clicker training:
1. Clickers are not needed to train dogs since voice commands work the same.
The clicker and its distinct clicking sound is not some magical sound. It is merely a unique, clear and consistent sound. On the other hand, the human voice speaking voice commands can be highly variable.
If the trainer is excited, the excitement will always come through when speaking. If angry, that emotion can be detected in the human voice. The same is true for a variety of other human emotions. You are only human. There is no way you can emit a consistent, unique command every time you speak it. The clicker can and does.
Additionally, using the clicker insures you deliver a precisely timed sound to mark good behavior. That precise timing makes the use of the clicker more effective than the human voice commands.
Obviously, using voice commands to train dogs can and do work. They have been used for centuries with success. However, studies have shown that clicker trained dogs were superior to dogs trained with verbal commands in behavior acquisition, and they also required fewer reinforcements.
2. Clicker training requires that I have to carry treats and the clicker with me at all times.
This is a very common concern that people have about clicker training. They are worried they will have to have a pouch of smelly treats attached to their belts wherever they go.
This could not be further from the truth. It is imperative to remember that clicker training is a “construction” method. It is primarily used in the beginning stages of training known as the acquisition phase. Once the animal has “acquired” the requisite behavior, the clicker can be phased out.
Eventually, the clicker can be replaced with positive verbal markers. Since the dog has already learned the behavior through the use of the clicker, this is usually an easy transition. And, you can unstrap your treat pouch at that time!
3. Clicker training is only good for teaching a dog tricks.
It is very true that you can teach your dog some really neat tricks using clicker training. And, you can do it in a rapid fashion.
But, clicker training is a highly effective dog training method used by thousands of professionals around the world.
Police dogs and military dogs are often trained with this method. If clicker training was only for teaching tricks, this would not be the case. In fact, this type of training can teach a multitude of new behaviors that are not trick behaviors.
Equally important, clicker training can also be used to correct specific behavioral problems. By using a clicker to mark desired behavior, negative behavior can be corrected. Clicking and treating the desired behavior is a distinct signal to the dog that that is the behavior you want.
4. When taking clicker training classes with other dogs, my dog will be distracted by all the other clicking sounds.
This is a legitimate concern. After all, if you are paying to have your dog trained or to learn how to train him using clicker training, you do not want him to be distracted.
While this is an understandable concern, it has been shown over and over that your dog will not be distracted by all the other clicks. Dogs have superb hearing. They are very proficient at discerning which click belongs to their owner.
Since you would have already loaded the clicker, your pooch is conditioned to his clicker. Amazingly, they are quite proficient at sorting out the clicks and do not get confused about which click will result in the positive reinforcer in the form of a tasty treat.
5. Clicker training requires that my dog be fed multiple treats throughout the day that will cause her to unnecessarily gain weight.
First, clicker training does suggest using small food treats as the positive reinforcer. Although, you can use other forms of positive reinforcement, such as praise or touch.
But, for newcomers to clicker training, using bite-sized food treats are not only convenient for the trainer, but also good motivators for most dogs. It is strongly emphasized by all clicker training programs that the treats used be small, and hence low in calories.
Many trainers recommend substituting a mealtime for a training session to avoid the problem of possibly overfeeding your dog. And, finally, remember that the sessions are very short, not requiring the use of an inordinate amount of the treats, and the dog is exercising at the same time he is getting the “extra” calories.
For these reasons, weight gain is not usually a result of a properly conducted clicker-training program.