What is clicker training?
Clicker training is a training method based upon operant conditioning principals. The method uses almost entirely positive reinforcement. There is no physical compulsion or corrections whatsoever. The dog learns that the sound of the clicker indicates a reward (treat) is forthcoming and so performs to "cause" the clicker to sound.
Okay, so what is a clicker?
A standard clicker is a small rectangular device made of plastic. There is a small metalic plate inside that can pressed to create a loud "click" sound.
Clickers can be purchased from various places including most pet stores and several places online.
How do I get started?
The key to success with clicker training is to discover the reinforcers that work best for your Bulldog. A reinforcer is a reward for behavior that makes the behavior more likely to occur in the future. Choosing the right reinforcer can make all the difference in training - especially as you progress to more and more challenging lessons.
What does your Bullie really like? Is it certain toys, going for walks,
butt scratches, petting, praise? These can all be used, but for early training
one of the most convenient and best things to use is food reinforcement.
You'll be coupling this with praise and other reinforcers as you and your
Bulldog progress through training.
Tips for choosing a food reinforcer
Since Bullies have very different personalities and preferences, what works as a reinforcer for one may not work well for another Bulldog. Even though most Bulldogs like food reinforcers, there are still some guidelines that you should followed when choosing initial and future reinforcers. Good food treats for use in clicker training should be:
Training Lesson #1: Introducing the Clicker
For clicker training lessons to be successful, your Bulldog must learn what happens when he hears the clicker. In this lesson you will be creating the foundation that will help you be successful with your training.
When you have finished this lesson, your Bullie should look to you expecting a treat, when you unexpectedly click. She may even come running from across the room.
Set aside some time to begin teaching your Bulldog about the clicker and the good things that happen when she hears it. We recommend that you consider beginning at a normal mealtime. This way your Bullie will be motivated by hunger and will probably learn much quicker. You may even be able to use her kibble as a reward.
Hold the clicker in one hand and a treat in the other. Click and immediately provide a treat. You should probably add some loud excited praise such as "Good girl!" Wait for a few seconds and repeat the process. Do this at least 10 times.
The key to success at this stage is timing. The clicking must occur immediately after a desired behavior. It may not seem important at this point but you must be very careful about when you click. For example, if you click while your Bullie is jumping on you to take treat from your hand, you are reinforcing the behavior of jumping up. As you'll recall, reinforcing a behavior makes the behavior more likely to occur in the future. In the case of jumping up, you should click and treat once your Bulldog has gotten off you and is waiting quietly.
Practice this lesson spread over 2 or 3 sessions, with 10-15 clicks, per day until the goal is reached. As you work through this lesson, make small changes to the presentation. For example vary the length of time from when you click to the time a treat is given. You can also vary the presence of verbal praise along with the treat. That is sometimes include the praise and sometimes be silent while treating. Try holding your sessions in different areas of the house with various distractions present such as other people.
Once your Bullie is consistently responding to the clicker, move on to lesson 2.
Training Lesson #2: Building Attention
To be successful in future lessons, it is important that your Bullie learns to pay attention to you and to look to you for guidance.
The goal of this lesson is to have your Bullie look to you and pay attention to you. It sounds very simple, but it is a very important component of successful training.
You should work on this lesson for approximately 2-4 days. There are several separate components that you will work on during this stage of training:
Training Lesson #3: Coming Soon!