In clicker training, the clicker is an event marker which signals the moment in time a desired behaviour happened. Verbal markers can also be used however, clickers have such a precise and distinct sound, they make it very clear for your dog which behaviour they did was right. This method can be used to assist with the following training techniques.
Watch or cue the behaviour – mark the behaviour – reward the behaviour
Any form of marker starts out as neutral – i.e. it doesn’t mean anything to your dog. Therefore, we need to make the association between your chosen marker, behaviours and rewards. All you need to do is spend some time clicking and rewarding so they start to realise any time they hear the click, a reward follows.
Luring is where you use a food lure to ‘pull’ your dog into the desired position, they are then marked and rewarded. It is important to fade the lure out as quickly as possible.
This technique is the most popular technique as it can be a great way to jump-start behaviours. This technique is often used in puppy training.
Capturing is a way to ‘grab’ a behaviour that your dog does spontaneously. To do this, we ‘catch’ the moment your dog lies down, for example by marking it and rewarding.
Capturing is a great technique to get behaviours on cue that your dog does regularly.
Shaping is a technique that, along with clicker training, is used to get dogs to do most advanced behaviours. You could teach your dog a whole dance routine for Crufts using this technique!
In shaping, you start with a portion of a behaviour and gradually build that into the complete behaviour that you want.
For example, if you wanted to train your dog to lie down, you might start by clicking and feeding when your dog bends their front elbows. You may then start clicking and feedings for the elbows all the way down, then the hind end lowering. Over time, you would wait until the behaviour gets closer and closer to lying all the way down. Once you have the full behaviour, you can add in your cue!
This is a method uses a target in place of a lure to prompt your dog to move in a specific way or to a specific location. In our Positive Pups classes, we used this technique for out ‘touch’ exercise.
The first step is to teach your dog to touch something with a part of his body. This can then be built up to teaching your dog to switch off a light or ring a bell, for example.
In free shaping, your dog spontaneously offers different behaviours and you choose among them which you want by marking and reinforcing the ones that are on the path to the desired behaviour. There are no lures or prompts in this type of training.