I see a lot of clients who are very resistant to using a clicker. I get it. It’s something new, now you have another thing to learn, your hands are full, there is already a ton of other new info to figure out… I understand the apprehension, I have been there. But now I am here and I am here to say “try it, you might like it!” Oh, and it might make your training go FASTER.
It may seem complicated at first but trust me, it’s not. The click is just a marker. The sound of the click tells your dog “yes, that right there, what you are doing right this instance, is what I want you to do. You got it!” Now isn’t one little click easier than saying all that? Think of the click like taking a photo; you snap the picture right when your dog is doing what you want him to do.
Much of the resistance I hear from folks is: “But will I have to carry this thing around forever?” No, you do not need to use the clicker forever, I promise! I use it when I am teaching new behaviors so, when I am working with a young/new dog and then when teaching more complicated tricks later on. I also use it a lot to capture a behavior my dog is offering without my asking. For example: when my dog looks up at me instead of pulling forward on his leash = click + treat! I use it with a reactive dog when the dog makes the decision to NOT react when a trigger is present. The reactive dog sees another dog and looks up at me (instead of lunging/barking) = click +treat! I didn’t cue (say anything to) him to do anything, he did it on his own and was reinforced for that (desirable) behavior. More on why that is so great in another post….
The other reason I hear for people not wanting to use the clicker is: “I forgot it” or “my hands are full with treats/leash/pop bags.” Guess what? You can also use a verbal marker. I use the word “yes.” A verbal marker is good too and you can use a clicker sometimes and sometimes say “yes” (mix and match!). There have been studies on whether a clicker or verbal marker is better and what they have found is that it probably doesn’t matter what your marker is, but what matters most is that you are using food as your reinforcer. The most recent study said the one place there may be an advantage with teaching targeting. I think the method has to work for both ends – human and dog so, if you hate the clicker, don’t use it but if you are feeling adventurous, give it a whirl! Either way, you are really OK.
Go ahead, just TRY IT! Try playing with the clicker when you are training at home first, hands free (no leash in your hand and treats in a cup on the counter if you’d like). Start using it with simple cues such as sit, down or touch.
For instructions on how exactly to use a clicker go here: How To Use a Clicker or Marker
See how fast your dog learns and how much FUN it is teaching him!