What is positive reinforcement training?
We use positive reinforcement training (reward-based methods). This means, in a nutshell, when a dog does a behaviour we want, we reward him! It’s much like us going to work – our salary is our reward, and if we didn’t get that reward, we would not be as likely to go into the office each day. It is the same with dogs. We need to tell the dog when he has done something we like, in order to reinforce the behaviour. Behaviours that are reinforced and more likely to occur again. We do not use aversive or punitive methods or equipment.
What is Clicker Training?
Clicker training is one of the most modern, effective and enjoyable methods available. Based on sound scientific principles, the clicker enables you to communicate with your dog and train him or her to do practically anything you choose. Clicker training is simpler and quicker than more traditional training methods. It also builds your dog’s confidence as they learn that something that they do by their own choice can earn a click, and then a reward.
Will my dog get confused with lots of clickers going off in class?
No! Although several clickers can be going off at once in class, the dog’s focus on the handler is actually improved rather than distracted. The dog learns to discriminate between a message meant for itself from its handler and one that is meaningless.
What is the benefit of using the clicker rather than just feeding the food reward?
The clicker not only indicates to the dog that a reward is coming, but it is a very accurate marker for behaviour. By clicking at the vital moment, we are able to communicate to the dog that what it did at that precise moment is what we are looking for…and this is then followed by a reward to reinforce that behaviour. For the food reward to be effective on its own it would need to be delivered to the dog within less than a second of the behaviour occurring. Humans do not have such great timing! Therefore by using the clicker, we are able to be as accurate as possible which, in turn, makes it far easier for the dog to understand what we want.
Do I have to use the clicker?
We would never force anyone to do something they do not want to do, and if you truly do not want to use the clicker we would suggest you use a ‘marker word’ such as “yes” which is not commonly used in everyday conversation, which can be used instead of the clicker. This is not as accurate as the clicker, and we do find that despite some people being unsure of the clicker to begin with, once they have got the hang of it and how it works they don’t look back!
Will I need to use the clicker forever?
No, not at all. The clicker is mainly used to introduce a new behaviour or exercise, but once the dog understands the behaviour and is performing it consistently the clicker can be phased out. We do recommend that you still use the clicker and rewards at least intermittently, however, so the dog doesn’t forget and continues to be keen to learn.
Can more than one person attend the classes with the dog?
The whole family is more than welcome to attend the classes with your dog….after all, the whole family should be involved in your dog’s training! Consistency is very important, so the whole family must do the same thing. All we do ask is that children do not run or shout when in class, as this can upset and cause stress for the dogs.
Do I need to always use treats for my dog to respond?
No absolutely not. We use food in our hands initially to make it easier for the dog to understand what we are asking of them. We very soon encourage you to remove the food lure and reward from a treat in a treat bag or pocket, and then show you when the right time is to introduce a verbal cue. Once your dog knows the verbal cue, there is no need to treat them every single time, although it is still important to reward them every so often.
What type of treats should I use when training my dog?
In a class setting or when you are outside training, it is best to use high value treats such as cheese, chicken, liver cake or hot dog sausages, depending on your dog’s tastes. Whereas your dog may work for dry kibble when training at home, when you factor in more distractions (new people, dogs, smells etc) you will probably find the dry treats do not catch your dog’s attention because they are more aroused. Training treats should be small in size – about the size of your small finger nail. As a rule – use higher value treats for more ‘difficult’ training exercises. So for example, save your highest value treats for recall and loose lead walking training!
Why does my dog do what I ask at home, but not when we are outside?
There are far more distractions outside than there are in your home.Dogs do not generalise, meaning that just because they do a nice ‘Sit’ in the living room at home, does not mean they will do the same when out in the woods or in the park, as to them they have learnt that ‘Sit’ only means they need to sit in the living room. When you are starting to teach your dog something you most definitely should start at home where the level of distractions are low, but then it is very important to practice in a variety of different environments with different stimuli. It will be harder to get your dog’s attention, but don’t give up! Use super high value rewards to encourage your dog.