Using Treats and Clicks to Train Your Dog

Click or Treat? How About Both

Choke chains and spike collars are not only old news, they’re harmful to your dog. Fortunately, click and treat training provides a safer and more effective alternative, and it’s becoming quite the trend in dog training. In fact, over 10,000 trainers use this method daily to help improve dog behavior and teach necessary skills and commands. But you don’t have to be a trainer to use this method – it’s easy to learn for trainers and dogs alike!

The click and treat method was originally used with marine mammals, such as dolphins, but has been found to be remarkably useful for dogs, too. There are two basic components to the click and treat method: information and motivation. Clicks provide the dog with information, and the treat provides the motivation. Other types of training work on the same basic premise, as well, but they try to combine information and motivation, which can be confusing to the dog. Click and treat separates the two components, making it easier for animals to learn.

Most training methods will suggest you verbally praise a dog for exhibiting desired behavior, while also motivating the dog to repeat the action. While this can work, it also takes longer for the dog to figure out which actions prompted the praise. Click and treat, on the other hand, allows the dog to easily learn and repeat desired behaviors.

During the course of normal training, the trainer would say something like “good boy” when a desired behavior is exhibited by the dog, and then give the dog a treat. However, with click and treat, the click becomes the substitute for the verbal praise and alerts the dog that he’s exhibiting a desirable behavior sooner than verbal cues can. This lets the dog know exactly what behavior he’s being rewarded for.

You can look at click and treat training another way, too, that being as secondary reinforcement. For instance, food, water, play, physical affection, and other things your dog wants are primary reinforcements, and click and treat training is secondary. When you walk your dog, for instance, the leash is a secondary reinforcement. Obviously the leash isn’t walking the dog, you are, and the dog knows that. But the leash triggers a reaction telling the dog where he can and can’t go. If he responds well to the leash, the reward is a nice, calm walk.

Click and treat works like the leash. When the dog hears the click, he knows that whatever he’s doing at that moment is a good behavior. As long as he keeps hearing the clicking, he knows a treat is coming, so he’ll repeat the behavior that the click was initially made for. The clicker, then, is secondary reinforcement, setting up boundaries and teaching him appropriate behavior.

The click and treat method offers several advantages over typical methods of training, a few of which are listed below.

Faster Response

A quick click can identify appropriate and desirable behavior at the exact moment the dog exhibits it. By the time “good boy” comes out of your mouth he could be doing something else entirely and have no idea why he is receiving the praise. The clicker identified behavior right when it occurs.

Replaces Treats

It is called click and treat, and you can treat the dog after a series of desirable behaviors, but the clicking is the main reinforcement. You’re motivating your dog to hear the click, and he knows a treat is coming at the end if he keeps up whatever behavior you originally started clicking for. However, you don’t have to give him a treat every single time he exhibits a desired behavior. Excessive treats can add too many calories to a dog’s diet, and can cause health problems later on. Using fewer treats is favorable, and saves you money, as well.

Works from a Distance

You don’t have to be right next to the dog for the clicker method of training to work. This can help improve safety and is more convenient, as well. For instance, if your dog runs out the front door and you have trained him to stop when he hears the clicker, you don’t have to panic and run to be right next to him with a treat. You can simply start clicking and the dog should obey.

Ready to Start Clicker Training?

If you want to try this method of training with your dog the first thing you’ll need to do is invest in a clicker. A clicker is a small, simple device that fits right in your hand and should cost you no more than five dollars. Pick up some pocket treats, as well, while you’re there.

When you begin click and treat training, the best method is to stand in front of your dog. Click the clicker and then give the dog a treat. Do this for about 20 to 30 minutes, or until your dog seems startled by the sound of a click. This lets your dog get familiar with the sound, while teaching him that every time he hears it he’s done something good. Once he gets the hang of it, you can start adding commands like “stay” or “sit”.

While this method is simple, it has consistently proven itself to be effective and yield faster results than typical training methods. Whether you’re a trainer looking for a new tool in your toolbox or a pet owner looking for a simple and affordable way to train your pet, the click and treat method might be just the thing for you.

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