Which Method For Dog Training Is Better Clicker Or Reward?

A Reader Asks…

I have a 7 month old Belgian Malinois and I want to teach him some simple . I don't intend to make him a protection . I know it's quite costly. I was able to teach him some obedience like sit, stay, fetch etc. and I'm using the reward method and I find it ok. I'm just curious. Is training ?

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    • drb
    • August 8, 2009

    Some basic learning theory:
    Reinforcement is the process whereby a given behavior is made stronger. This can be done in a couple of ways. Positive reinforcement is when something good follows the behavior. The dog sits, and you give a treat. The treat is the reinforcer. The appearance of the reinforcer produces reinforcement, which is an internal process. Negative reinforcement occurs when the behavior results in something unpleasant going away, such as the pressure of a choke collar easing when the dog gets back into heel position. Walking at heel is reinforced by the easing of the pressure.
    Things that have reinforcing qualities in and of themselves are called primary reinforcers. Food is one of the big ones. A treat then, is a primary reinforcer. The sound of a clicker in and of itself is not a reinforcer at all, until it is conditioned to a primary reinforcer. Then it becomes a conditioned or secondary reinforcer.
    Here’s the deal with clicker training. You first have to get your dog to associate the sound of the clicker with a primary reinforcer. You do this by pairing the sound of the clicker with a primary reinforcer until it becomes a conditioned reinforcer. Click the clicker, give a treat. Repeat several times. Take a break, then repeat the whole sequence. Do this enough, and the clicker will take on reinforcing properties. Now when you’re training your dog, click the clicker as soon as he performs the desired behavior, and the dog will be reinforced. Occasionally, you should go back and repeat the click-treat bit, just to keep the association between clicker and treat going. That’s sometimes called loading the clicker.
    Rather than a clicker, try making a clicking sound with your tongue, or any little short, sharp sound you can. This has the advatanges of your not having to fumble with the clicker in one hand, and the lead in the other. Also, it’s unique to you, nobody else can duplicate it. Anyone can get a clicker, and if one goes off at the wrong time, it can mess up what you’re trying to do. Finally, it’s free and you won’t leave it at home or lose it.
    So if you try to train a dog with a clicker without first building the association between the click and some really good treat, you’re probably not going to get too far.

    • fearfuld
    • August 8, 2009

    The clicker just ‘marks’ the behavior you want and lets the dog know a treat is coming. You can do the same thing by saying ‘yes’ or ‘good dog’. The clicker can be more precise and once the dog understands what it means, can learn to work for clicks, learning new behaviors more easily.

    • Yuff
    • August 8, 2009

    clicker is easier but you wont always have it with you

    • renee k
    • August 8, 2009

    what ever works for u.we use treats

    • Grossed out in Georgia
    • August 8, 2009

    Clicker training did nothing for my dog especially since he was brought up on rewards.
    If he does something good and is expecting a cookie and gets a click, he is not going to be too excited.

    • ajmommy0
    • August 7, 2009

    In order to start clicker training you use it with a reward …so my answer is both.

    • andrea z
    • August 7, 2009

    We used both at first and slowly went to treats only. After a few weeks of only treats we only showed love.

    • Dog Trainer
    • August 7, 2009

    There is no ‘better training.’ It really depends on the dog. Some dogs respond to the clicker some don’t! The clicker works like a reward, because when you start using it, you reward and click consistently to help the dog learn to respond to the clicker. One of my dogs is scared of the noise of the clicker, the other immediately responds to it! Just keep in mind that positive training is good, negative/abusive training is not!

    • Leanna G
    • August 7, 2009

    My trainer recommended instead of a clicker, use a marker word. So we use the word “Good” instead of a click. We always have our words but may not have a clicker.

    • Joh
    • August 7, 2009

    clicker IS reward training – the click comes before the treat.

    • Green Weasle
    • August 7, 2009

    Clickers can be good and bad. For TEACHING tricks they can be very helpful so your dog knows exactly when he did the right thing. They can help a lot with more complicated tricks. For obedience they are a waste of time. Chasing after a dog with a clicker to try and get it to come will not work.
    Always use treats when teaching a new trick or obedience. Once they know it just praise them and give them a treat every now and then, but they should just do it for praise.
    If you want to teach your dog obedience visit http://www.dogproblems.com It’s a lot cheaper than going somewhere and you can do it when you have time. I used it and it’s amazing!!

    • kirsty m
    • August 7, 2009

    Clicker training is very like reward training, but the click preceeds the reward. Clicks can be delivered at exactly the moment the dog is doing the right thing, regardless of how far away from the dog you are at the time. The food reward immediately follows the click. It’s a more precise way of using positive reinforcement to train an animal. Here is a little video introduction http://www.clickertraining.tv/product.html?item=FREE-01
    You will find great information on the following website http://www.clickertraining.com/basics

    • glitterb
    • August 7, 2009


    • Vanessa
    • August 7, 2009

    My dog and I are currently using both. When he does the trick, give him the treat while clicking the clicker. That way if you are ever in an obedience trial (since they do not allow treats) use the clicker, the dog will think that you have treats with you.
    Good Luck!!

    • Nancy M
    • August 7, 2009

    actually clicker training is reward training — the clicker is simply a marker for a behavior that tells the dog that it will be rewarded for doing this specific behavior. With ‘reward’ type training without a clicker, you just use something else as a marker like a word or sound and then reward. Neither is ‘better’ than the other just different. With either you use something the dog likes (toy, treat) to reward after marking the behavior – dog sits, you click or say yes or smile or whatever and then treat the dog. If you aren’t consistant with the marker maybe a clicker is better for you but it just depends on you. I find it easier to not use a clicker as I am not THAT coordinated and am used to using a verbal marker. Good luck.
    add: You cannot use a clicker in an obedience trial any more than you can use a treat. Both should be weaned off once the dog is actually trained for an exercise and be sporatically rewarded so that it does it not for the treat but because it is trained to. In the obedience ring you can only give the proper command and that is all.

    • dobiz_ru
    • August 7, 2009

    clicker + reward training is what our trainer recommends. personally i find the clicker annoying but it seems to work well. we only use it to teach something new and than its only reward and than nothing. before our obedience training we used just rewards and that worked pretty well 2, but i think clicker gets her attention faster and the response is faster so she stays focused better.
    just to clarify what clicker training that we used is
    it goes like this
    1) you give command
    2) dog performs
    3) you click right away
    4) and give a treat right away.
    so click and treat in almost one move. clicker sound is unique and they associate that with something good (as a praise followed by a treat). you than slowly fade it out.

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