Anyone who has been training dogs for a long time knows the value of a clicker or an event marker. It plays a crucial role in creating positive reinforcement during training sessions. Expert trainers, hobbyists, and newbie dog parents often tap into dog training with a clicker to ensure the smooth flow of each training session. With a clicker’s obvious importance, one might wonder, is dog training without a clicker possible? Find out more as we discuss the topic further below.
How Training with Clickers Work
Clickers come in handy in marking an event or a behavior that merits a reward. It helps your dog effectively associate rewards like belly rubs and delectable snacks with a command, action, or behavior. Professional trainers or dog owners usually use clickers for operant conditioning. With this approach, a dog can either get a reward or no reward, depending on how he reacts to the provided stimuli.
Essentially, a clicker is a small noise-making device. They can come in various shapes and sizes. Some make soft clicking sounds, while others tend to be a bit louder.
It would help if you introduced it to your dog before integrating it into your routine. Sometimes, it can take up to 20 repetitions before a dog can associate an action with the sound of a clicker, so you need to be extra patient.
In most cases, training with clickers is the best option if you want a quick way to teach new skills or tricks. However, if your dog has hearing disabilities or feels anxious because of the clicking sound, using such a training approach might not work. It might be more helpful to opt for dog training without a clicker.
Training Without a Clicker is Possible
When a clicker isn’t available or if your dog reacts adversely to clicking sounds, you can always try alternative techniques. A few examples of other event markets you can use include the following:
- Hand gestures – thumbs up, opening and closing of the palms, pointing downwards
- Verbal cues – Bravo, good job, yes, excellent
- Whistling or making other sounds with your lips
- Snapping your fingers
Like in using traditional dog training clickers, you should combine event markers with the right stimuli and reward. By doing so, you can ensure that your dog quickly picks up your message. You will also need to repeatedly use your chosen event marker with treats and commands to help your dog remember better.
What is Operant Conditioning in Dogs?
Operant conditioning is a set of principles developed by B.F. Skinner back in the 1950s. Essentially, this classical behavioral training system applies to various creatures, including dogs. It has four simple aspects, namely:
- Positive reinforcement
- Positive punishment
- Negative punishment
- Negative reinforcement
The training system defines reinforcement as increasing or maintaining a desirable behavior. Conversely, punishment refers to eliminating or reducing unwanted responses from your dog. As for positive and negative, Skinner defines them as either adding or withdrawing a stimulus to see a reaction.
To illustrate the differences between the four aspects of the operant conditioning system, here’s a sample scenario when training a dog:
You want to teach your dog to stop jumping to avoid stressing out people in your household.
- Positive reinforcement – You give your dog a piece of snack or attention to encourage the no jumping behavior.
- Negative reinforcement – You stop pushing your dog down to urge him that it’s better not to jump.
- Negative punishment – You take away belly rubs or pat in the head to stop him from jumping.
- Positive punishment – You give your dog punishment like a bump in the nose to discourage jumping.
How To Maximize the Benefits of Operant Conditioning
Operant conditioning, with or without the use of clickers, can yield plenty of positive effects on your dog’s training. If you want to reap the benefits of operant conditioning, here are some tips you can follow:
It’s not always about you
While dogs love to please their owners, it’s crucial to remember that dogs like to do things that make them feel good. That’s why, the more positive associations a dog can have with a command or activity, the faster they learn.
Timing is everything
The reward or punishment needs to be delivered quickly. Otherwise, your dog might have trouble associating his actions to either a negative or positive feeling. Be extra sensitive to reading your dog’s reactions as well as it will help you get your message across better.
Positive punishment often doesn’t work
Many trainers avoid using this approach as it only increases the chances of bad behavior to get worse. It’s also quite hard to do correctly. As much as possible, you should also minimize or avoid using this technique especially if you don’t have prior dog training experience.
Pay attention to the markers you use
If you’re using clickers, make sure that you use them correctly every time you encourage or discourage a response. On one hand, if you’re using verbal cues or sounds, you must ensure that you do them as enthusiastically as you can. This helps your dog pick up your cues better. You must also pay close attention to your body language when saying a command.
Train Your Dog the Best Way Possible with Delaware K9 Academy
Training a dog without a clicker can be difficult, especially if you lack experience and the necessary training skills. Thankfully, with the help of a pro, training a dog with or without a clicker becomes easy-peasy.
Here at Delaware K9 Academy, we can help you develop good behavior in your dogs so you can enjoy a harmonious bond. Proper training will also help your dog enjoy doing activities like walking with other dogs or playing with other family members. It can give you peace of mind and make you feel confident knowing that your pup will not cause any trouble.
Get in touch with our professional dog trainer in Delaware today! You can also check out our dog training programs and find one that suits your dog’s needs.