We use clicker training in all our classes and private lessons. A question we are often asked is "DO I REALLY NEED TO USE THE CLICKER?". It is sometimes hard to convince new clients that the clicker is an important and helpful tool in positive reinforcement training, so I wanted to use this short video as an example of why the clicker is SO incredibly helpful to the training process:
The clicker is not a magic tool and it is not some kind of remote control that will make your dog respond, on its own. The clicker is about giving your dog accurate information in the training process. The clicker tells your dog exactly what they did right to earn a reward (usually food, but it could be paired with a toy/play reward as well). It captures (like taking a photo) the moment of success so that your dog can identify and learn very quickly what is required to gain the reward in a particular exercise.
In this video Cruz is learning to hold a prop with his paw. This video was taken the very first time we attempted this and within the first minute of trying the exercise. You can see that he attempts various things, but settles on wrapping his paw around the pole really quickly because that is what I am clicking for. This is the beauty of using a reward marker, like the clicker. I can let Cruz know instantly when he has hit on the right behaviour and then have time to deliver the actual reward of the food treat, without confusing him as to what I am asking for. Without the clicker, he would be relying on the timing of the food delivery, which can vary depending on how quickly I can move, to tell him what the correct behaviour was and he may well have moved by then and no longer be doing what it is that I want to reinforce.
Now you could of course use a verbal marker, like "yes!" instead of the clicker, but I find that new trainers are VERY inconsistent with their voices and also tend to forget! It is a lot harder to forget to click when you can feel the clicker between your fingers, than it is to remember to say yes. The unique sound of the click is also always heard and easily identifiable to your dog - they will not confuse it with anything else.
So, have a look at how quick and easy it is to teach a new behaviour when your dog knows the training game and you have a CLEAR SYSTEM OF COMMUNICATION which using the clicker enables you to have. Training really becomes quick, easy and lots of fun!