Clickers often talked about in dog training and are a popular choice for positive reinforcement. However, you might commonly think, ‘But do I HAVE to use a clicker?’. The answer is absolutely not! While there are benefits to using them which we will discuss later on, some people would like another alternative. That’s where we can help! These are the ways to teach your dog tricks without using a clicker.
Some people might think, what if one day I forget my clicker or happen not to have it on me at the right moment? Will I not be able to control my dog? What if I don’t want to carry a clicker with me always? These are all very important things to consider. You want to remain as consistent as possible when training your dog.
If you find yourself asking these questions, then it might be beneficial to find another way to train your dog!
What are clickers used for in dog training?
In dog training, positive reinforcement is everything. That’s where the clicker comes in! Clickers are a consistent sound that is not otherwise heard in your dogs day to day life. This way they can associate it with a certain thing and not get confused.
Clickers work when training by the use of a single click sound, very closely followed by a treat reward when your dog completes a trick or action correctly. This allows them to easily know that they have done an action correctly without any confusion and so be able to repeat the action again.
The clicker has the benefit of not altering in any way such as with emotion like your voice. The consistency of the sound as well as it being very distinctive allows your dog to not get confused when you indicate that they’ve done something right.
Replace the clicker with a word
If you simply don’t want to carry around a clicker or are afraid you won’t have it at the right time, you can simply replace the clicking sound with a verbal noise.
The thinking behind this is the exact same. If the dog performs a trick or action correctly, you can say a loud and clear ‘YES’ or similar word to replace the clicking sound. Follow this word closely with a treat and this can work essentially in the same way!
The important thing to do if you use this method is keep the signal word as consistent as possible. Try to keep the word a similar volume and said in the same way each time to avoid any confusion.
It is also beneficial to choose a word which your dog doesn’t hear much in their day to day life. Most words similar to ‘yes’ that are short and snappy will work, but when you choose one, stick to it! This will avoid them getting confused and clearly know exactly when they have done something right and will receive a reward!
Timing is everything
With the method of replacing the clicker with a word, timing is one of the most important factors!
First is the timing of you actually saying the word. Make sure to say the signal word directly after they have done the right trick with very little delay. This will make them have no doubt that they positive reinforcement is related to the action they just did, so that they can repeat the same thing in future. This is especially beneficial when you first begin to teach your dog tricks without a clicker for the first time!
Next is the timing of backing up the verbal positive reinforcement with a treat reward. Again, the treat should be given to them immediately and with as little delay as possible. This will again avoid any confusion and make sure your dog knows that the verbal cue is an indicator that they did something right. This is also most important when starting to use the verbal cue for the first time.
Use food rewards
If it’s one thing most dogs have in common, it’s their love of food! If you dog is a food lover too, then treats are your best friend when it comes to training! It’s important to remember that not all dogs are food driven, which may come as a surprise! Some simply aren’t interested, which makes this type of training more difficult.
With this method, the most important thing to consider is not overfeeding your dog. Always speak to your vet about how much food your dog should be eating and which treats are best for them!
The clicker of verbal command replacement is a great way to ensure your dog knows exactly when they’ve done something right. However, if you really aren’t keen on either of these two methods, then simple treat rewards can still work well.
Make sure that when they complete a trick or action correctly, you immediately reward them so that they know to associate the action with the positive reinforcement.
Dogs love praise!
This fact is true of almost all dogs, and can be incredibly effective especially if your dog isn’t as interested in treats! I know what you might be thinking: what dog doesn’t love food? Well, many just don’t get what all the fuss is about! If this sounds like your dog, then praise based training might be the way forward for you!
For some, there is a worry about not overfeeding their dog. For others, non-treat based training is a way of deepening their bond beyond simply being a treat dispenser! Whatever your reason, there are plenty of ways to train your dog without using treats… or a clicker!
- Use positive language- words and sounds that your dog associates with positive behaviour as well as stroking and making a fuss of them can be a great way to show your dog that they’ve done the right thing! This can be certain classic words like ‘good dog’ or any variation of this, or even just speaking in an upbeat, happy tone!
- Reward them with fun and games- a great way to train your dog without them even knowing that they’re being trained is through play! This is also a great way to build your bond with your pup, and also be used as a reward. This is especially effective if they have a particular favourite game. Use this as a reward for particularly good behaviour and stay consistent! Building the bond between you ad your dog will also make them listen to you more closely and want to please you more!
- Use their favourite things to do- Does your dog love to go outside to play or even snuggle up to you on the sofa? This is a great teaching opportunity that is easy to fit into your everyday life! Try making them sit and wait before letting them do these sorts of fun activities. This will make their favourite things to do the ultimate reward for them! Make sure you watch your dog and find out what they love to do most. They’ll make it pretty obvious before long!
Some people think that clickers are the only effective way to train your dog tricks or simple obedience. But this is absolutely not the case! There are plenty of other options of ways to train your dog without using a clicker.
The best thing you can do is work out what is best for your dog. Every dog is different! Is your dog mainly treat driven? Try some simple treat rewards to show when your dog is doing the right thing. Do they prefer loads of praise and affection? Don’t worry, this can work just as well! No matter what your dog likes best, there is a way of training them effectively without using a clicker.