Intro to Clicker Training

I introduced Seven to the clicker weeks ago, but I captured it all on video. For those unfamiliar with clicker training or operant conditioning, it is a very positive method for teaching animals all sorts of things. A clicker is a small, handheld, plastic box with an opening (see above). When you press your thumb into the opening and depress the metal strip, it produces a “click” noise. The dog is taught that the “click” means “That is what I want and you are getting a treat for it.” The clicker is used to mark desired behaviors offered by the dog that you then reward with a treat. It is a very sharp and clear way of telling the dog that she is right! I always explain the clicker training concept to my greyhounds by teaching them to touch a cup with their noses.
In this video, Seven has no idea that the “click” has any meaning. For this reason, I start her on leash (even if indoors) so she does not accidentally touch my cup when I am not ready to Click & Treat (C&T). I hold several treats in my dominant hand and the clicker and leash in the other. I place a treat on top of the cup and click as the Seven removes the treat. Anytime she checks the cup for a treat when a treat is not there and touches the cup with her nose, I swoop in quickly with a C&T. Right now it is important that I put a treat in her mouth as soon as I click. When I run out of treats, I pull her away from the cup so I can refill my hand without missing any opportunities to C&T. Also, you will notice Seven target my hands because she smells the treats. I just ignore it and let her exhaust that behavior.

I recommend using small, easy to swallow treats that do not require any chewing. After you have completed a few repetitions, do not place a treat on the cup. Instead, wait to see if your dog will check the cup and reward immediately with a C&T when she does. Try not to rush. Some folks get really frantic with trying to be organized. The second purpose of this silly exercise is to train you to work with a clicker. Use the leash to pull your dog away from the cup when you get disorgnaized. Also, resist the urge to point to the cup each time. Give your hound a chance to think about what she is doing and let her figure it out. If she does appear to be stuck, go back a step to remind her of the task.
In this video, Seven catches on that the cup is significant, but notice that she still does not respond to the “click” when I test her. Also, notice that I am still using a leash to restrict her access when I am not ready or get disorganized.
Here we have a change of scenery. Dogs do not generalize unless you teach them to so it is good to change your location frequently. You can see Seven start to recognize the “click” sound and turn to me for the treat.
Here is the final video. Once again, we are at a different location so it takes her a short time to realize what we are doing. I consider my dog well versed in clicker training when she can turn away from me, the clicker, and the treats to touch the cup and then responds quickly to my click.
Now Seven is ready to learn other things with a clicker. The point of clicker training is to make your dog an active participant in his own training and figure things for himself. I love that the clicker is an enjoyable way to point out to your dog all of the good things she is doing instead of correcting her for mistakes. Too many corrections can make a dog feel afraid to try something and they can become frozen. Clicker training gets a dog willing to move around and take risks.
Courtesy of Jennifer Bachelor, Never Say Never Greyhounds –