Imagine you are trying to be a stand-up comic but no one laughs at your jokes, even if they are funny. Your audiences only boo when they don’t like a joke. Or what if they only cheered at the end? How would you know which jokes are good? What are the chances that you will keep telling jokes without the feedback that tells you what is funny and makes you eager to tell more jokes, and try new material?
Clicker training with animals works on the same principle. The “click” to a dog is like laughter to a comedian. It tells a dog that what they did in that instant is what you are looking for and it is paired with a reinforcer like food or a toy that will make them eager to do it again. It is the most effective way you can communicate what you want your dog to do.
When they do something you don’t want, ignore it. When a crowd is silent, that tells you all you need to know about a joke right? Silence means you probably shouldn’t tell that joke again. Silence means you need to try something else. It says the same thing to a dog. Eventually, the behavior that doesn’t get a response will stop.
After you have done a comedic bit for a while, you know what works. You could easily go into a studio and record a comedy album with no audience. The same is true with your dogs. The clicking is only necessary when the dogs are still learning the behavior.
And that is basically it. Sure, there is a bit more to training a behavior but at its core, it is telling the dog that is what you want with a click, and then reinforcing the behavior with something the dog finds rewarding. As a bonus, it is really enjoyable to watch your dog learn, which makes training fun for both you and your dog.
Learn more about clicker training here.