How I train dogs
“The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude to the problem.
Do you understand?”
Captain Jack Sparrow
"A child would be far more willing to do their homework if they got a reward every time they got a question correct compared to if they were punished every time they got a question wrong.
Dogs aren't any different.
Make learning rewarding.
Make it fun."
A clicker is a simple and inexpensive piece of equipment that can aid your dog's learning massively.
How to use a clicker
It really isn't complicated, just click exactly when your dog offers the behaviour you want, and reward with a treat. The treat must come immediately, so the dog associates the marker ('click' noise) with the biological motivator (food). Essentially. the click becomes a 'well done,' however unlike our voices, the sound of the clicker doesn't vary between people or dependent on mood. It is universal. Additionally, our dogs hear our voices all of the time which can devalue the effectiveness of a verbal marker, whereas they are less likely to hear a uniform 'click' in day-to-day life.
I love letting dogs learn through shaping, whereby they are left to offer a behaviour and when they begin offering it, they are marked and rewarded. An example of this is teaching a retrieve:
Shaping a retrieve
Place the object you want the dog to retrieve in front of you. If the dog so much as looks at the object, click and reward. Slowly, up the criteria. The dog may step towards the object, then touch it with their paw, then with their nose, then they may mouth it. With every step, click and reward. Once the dog is consistently offering the next behaviour, stop rewarding the previous one. Eventually, the dog may pick up the object in their mouth. This is the first part of the behaviour complete. Then you can start on marking the dog moving towards you whilst carrying the object. Mark and reward every small step. When they approach your hand, mark this until they consistently target your hand and you can take the object.
Even though shaping some behaviours may take longer than more conventional luring, I believe often the end results are more more solid and the behaviours are more fun to train for dog and owner.