Clicker training is also known as Applied Operant Conditioning. This is a scientific method developed by B.F. Skinner, the famous 20th century psychologist. He demonstrated that if a certain behavior or action is rewarded by a reinforcer, there is an increased possibility of that behavior recurring repeatedly. This new training program is very useful when it comes to Labrador training. Compared to other dogs, Labradors have a tendency to try and please their masters, and since this program is reward based, there is an additional bonus or incentive for the dog.
Earlier methods of training included both positive and negative reinforcements, but clicker training focuses only on positive reinforcement, especially with Labrador Training. Though shouting and getting angry at the Lab takes away bit of our frustration, it gains us nothing. Clicker training focuses only on rewarding with food, giving attention to the pup, and touching and petting it. There is no yelling, yanking on the leash, force, or coercion. Such old fashioned methods are counterproductive. Training should be a pleasure for both master and student, and it has been proven that dogs learn faster with positive reinforcement.
Start clicker training by getting a clicker from the pet shop, then put aside your dog’s treats. Since you don’t want him getting too fat, these treats can be taken from his daily ration. If you put aside your dog’s favorite treat, it will make the training easier. Start with conditioning your dog to the sound and outcome of the clicker and give your dog his treats while you sound the clicker.
Next, give him a command. As soon as he does what is expected of him, sound the clicker and give him his treat. Make sure that the dog associates the compliance of the command with the clicker and the treat. The sessions shouldn’t be lengthy; keep them short and let your pup play in between. Once your dog understands that the clicking noise is connected with good behavior, you can shift to verbal commands. In this phase of Labrador Training, you first click the command, let your dog obey, and only then give the treat.
Once he realizes the clicks are for his good behavior, move on to bad behavior. If he barks incessantly, ignore him completely so that he realizes that it is getting him nowhere. More often than not, this barking is an attention seeking technique. After he is quiet and calm, click and reward him. If he is jumping around too much, let him settle down or give the ‘sit’ command. Once he does that, click and reward. In this way, he is getting the signal that his bad behavior is unsuccessful and his good behavior is being rewarded.
Timing is very important in clicker training. You have to click at the exact moment of a good behavior, otherwise if the click is delayed and he has moved on to something else, it will negate the whole effect. He too will not know why he has been given a treat.
The reason clicker training is popular is that dogs learn from their actions. Good action deserves a treat, and so, he repeats the good action. It is totally based on positive reinforcement and is reward based. Such an approach is stress free because the dog and the master are both happy. There is no yelling or shouting, and the bond between the two grows stronger. This bonus is important in Labrador Training, and once your dog has learnt to obey, you can stop using the clicking or use it only to teach him new rules.