Clicker training has been around for over 50 years! It mainly involves a unique sound to communicate with a dog as a positive reinforcement.
There are various types of clickers available. Some clickers are very loud, some have wrist attachments to allow quick access while on a dog walk, and some clickers are quieter. Box clickers are very loud and portable. Clickers can also be muffled with fabric or by placing putty inside the clicker.
Priming a dog to a clicker involves creating an association between the noise of the clicker and a desired reward. Treats or toys can be used for this. It begins by giving a reward every time the clicker is clicked. This should, however, no be simultaneous. The reward should be given following the click, repeatedly, so that the dog understands that the noise is followed by a positive action. This should be repeated several times daily for a few minutes, in multiple situations.
The timing is vital when clicker training because it is important for the dog to understand what behaviour is being rewarded. There is even a specific hypothesis (the Marking Hypothesis) that describes how specific cues, closely associated to a targeted behaviour, can provide an emphasis to the dog which enables them to learn.
Clicker training can be more useful than vocal praise in situations when there are different owners/dog walkers, or if you are unwell and have lost your voice! Clickers may also be useful for deaf owners.
The benefits of clicker training for owner and dog are that it is calorie free so not going to impact the dog’s weight as much as constantly using treats. It is also a very clear indication to the dog what the desired behaviour is. It also means you don’t have to call and shout commands all the time in the dog park!