CONDITIONING THE CLICKER
WHAT IS A CLICKER?
For this course, you are going to need a clicker. A clicker is a small case that has a metal tongue inside. When pushing the button that is located on the outside of the case, the metal tongue inside creates a clicking sound. There are different kinds of clickers, so look for one that is easy for you to use. You should also be able to use the clicker fast. The idea of the clicker is to more accurately mark the correct behavior that the dog offers. This way we can more precisely tell the dog what he did right and what we are rewarding him for. The clicker is a huge asset for the trainer as well, as it makes it easier to reward for a more specific behavior – making the training a lot more effective. If for some reason you do not want to or cannot use a clicker, you can always use a ballpoint pen. When pushing the
top of the pen it creates a clicking sound. A ballpoint pen is also an option for dogs that are sensitive to sound and reacts to the sound of the clicker.
At this point, you might be wondering why you need to acquire a separate device to create a sound. Why not simply use your tongue to make a clicking noise? The answer is simple – it is a lot faster to use a real clicker. If you have been doing a lot of different exercises for a long time and your timing when training your dog is super precise, you could use another sound as a marker. A marker could be making the clicking sound with your tongue or a fast word like "yes". These sounds should, however, be conditioned to the reward, just like a clicker.
CONDITIONING THE CLICKER:
There is also a video about conditioning the clicker where you can see how it is done. You are going to start by conditioning your dog to the meaning of the sound. At this point, your dog does not yet understand what the clicking sound means. By conditioning, we are teaching him that the sound equals that a reward is coming his way.
Start by sorting your treats in five piles, with 10 treats in each pile. The treats are divided into these piles because you need to give your dog a break between each pile. The break is a couple of minutes and during this break, you are not going to ask your dog for anything – just let him be. If your dog during this break comes and asks for your attention, do not even look at him. This way the dog learns to do his things and the break becomes a break, which is a really important part of learning.
Now you have the piles ready and know what they are for. Let's begin our training. Give your dog a treat and at the precise moment, the dog's lips touch the treat, push the button on the clicker once. At this point, you are not going to give the dog any cues at all. The dog does not have to do anything but to wait for the next reward and click. There is not even a difference in what position the dog is when he gets his treats.
The only goal of conditioning is, that every time the dog hears the click, he gets a reward. Do this 10 times – take a break – 10 times – break – and so on, until all five piles are gone.