Introduction to Clicker Training for Your Boston Terrier

Boston Terriers are intelligent dogs capable of learning all kinds of tricks and unusual behaviors. One of the best ways to capitalize on this skill is by using clicker training. The latter uses a consistent sound to train your pet by shaping behaviors and indicating to your dog the exact second he does something you approve of. In short, it improves the communication between the two of you.

What Is Clicker Training?

Clicker training makes use of the principles of classical and operant conditioning. It builds a link between the sound of the clicker and a reward (classical conditioning). You then use this to teach the dog behaviors you desire by linking the click with the behavior (operant conditioning). It has been used with animals for almost a hundred years. Its use began with dolphins. Trainers were trying to find a way to communicate with the dolphin underwater. Clicking sounds carry much better through water than your voice does.

In the 1950s, some trainers tried the same methods with training domestic animals but for various reasons it did not catch on. Then in the 1980s, Karen Pryor brought the idea back to the forefront of training and it has been growing in popularity ever since. Today, it is used to train domestic pets, zoo animals, marine mammals, even goldfish.

Introducing the Clicker

A clicker is a small device that makes a consistent sound that can be produced rapidly. It’s advantage of the human voice is its consistency. When you speak many factors come into play – tone, volume, rapidity, etc. The clicker always sounds the same. You can purchase one at most pet supply stores for ten dollars or less.

Arm yourself with a bag of treats and a book and find a spot in your home to sit. When your Boston Terrier is in the room, click it. As soon as you click it, offer a treat. Your dog will likely approach anyway to investigate the noise. If he doesn’t, you can encourage him by attracting his attention to the treat vocally. Then go back to your book. A few minutes later, click it again. Your Boston Terrier is bright and will likely immediately start looking for the treat which you will have at the ready. If they don’t, you can continue to encourage them. It doesn’t usually take more than a few clicks for your dog to understand that every time you click, you immediately pull out a treat. Once your dog is reliably looking for the treat when you click, it is time to move on to some actual training.

The Touch Stick

A touch stick is just a dowel rod that is colored or covered with material at one end. It is very handy when you want to teach more advanced tricks or behaviors that may not come as naturally as basic training commands like sit. In many ways, the touch stick acts as a lure.

To introduce the touch stick, stand with your dog on lead. Hold the stick out from your body, within reach of your dog. Many dogs will automatically attempt to investigate and sniff or touch the stick with their nose. If your Boston Terrier does this, click as soon as he touches it and then reward him. If he is disinterested, you may need to up the game a bit and rub something that smells good on the end of your touch stick such as a bit of peanut butter or fat (just a dab). Repeat this several times.

Once your dog is reliably touching the touch stick with his nose when you present it, it’s time to make things more difficult. Move the stick so that your dog would need to take a few steps to touch it. Again, as soon as he does touch it, click and reward. Continue moving it around, gradually losing the leash and moving the stick to places that require more effort on your pet’s part to touch it. Once that’s reliable, you can use a touch stick to teach your Boston Terrier a variety of tricks.

Now You Have the Tools

The next steps are very similar to traditional training, except that instead of using your voice to indicate that your dog has done what you wanted, you’ll use the clicker. It will increase the speed at which your Boston learns new things and opens up many more possibilities in terms of tricks and more advanced training.

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