Whether you’re a dog owner, thinking of getting a dog or just someone who loves dogs, the game app Clickety Dog (available for most cell phones and tablets) provides hours of entertainment as well as practice in clicker training.
In the game, you must patiently clicker train your young dog in new skills before you take it through to obedience competitions and round agility courses. But, just like training a real dog your screen dog may ignore you or simply not understand what you want – timing and patience are key. And, just like real life, so is watching out for distractions like squirrels or picnics! Your aim is to win all the rosettes and trophies, and you can’t do that if your dog’s run off.
For those new to clicker training, it’s also a helpful introduction to both the concept and the skills needed before you go off and try it with a real dog.
The game has a built-in clicker or you can use your own real one and the app will pick it up.
Experienced clicker trainers recommend that you practise your timing with a clicker before you teach the dog. A clicker may be a simple device but, as with all mechanical skills, the more you practise, the slicker with your clicker you will become. The better your timing, the clearer it will be to your dog which action is being rewarded. In addition to the main game, Clickety Dog has a series of fun ways you can practise and test your timing, from ball games to interactive videos of (real) dogs in training.
For Those Not Familiar With Clicker Training:
Clicker training is a popular method of training dogs using ‘positive reinforcement’ – the trainer focuses on what the animal is getting right and rewards it (rather than punishing the animal for getting something wrong).
Why Use a Clicker?
When you’re training, it’s not always easy to explain to your dog exactly what it did that earned it the reward.
For example, you want to reward your puppy with a treat for sitting. But as soon as you move to present the treat (or even before that) you find that the puppy has stood up again – and may have jumped and woofed as well. You can see how it might take the puppy a little time to work out that it was the ‘bottom on the ground’ action you were rewarding!
This is why many trainers use a ‘marker’, usually an easily replicable sound, to tell the puppy exactly which action earned the reward. The puppy will soon learn that every time he hears a particular sound a treat will follow – and is more likely to repeat the behaviour that earned the reward.
Markers vary: a whistle can be heard by dolphins, for example, or a light for training deaf dogs. However, when some dog trainers began using a small metal clicking toy it quickly caught on as it so perfectly fitted the bill: it makes a distinctive sound, is easy to use and carry around, and very cheap.
So, you see, there’s no magic in the clicker itself – you create the training magic by learning how to teach your dog (or cat, or rabbit or any other animal).
Vicky Carne, Publisher of Dog Coach Videos & Clickety Dog, began publishing computer games back in the days of the Commodore 64 and the Sinclair Spectrum. Her hits included game versions of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, SciFi adventures and the UK TV political comedy Yes Minister. That was in the early 80s – and since then Vicky has launched and run a series of more serious online ventures. But now, 30 years on, and thanks to her dogs, Cory the Labradoodle and Chocky, an Affenpinscher, she’s devoting her time to learning more about dogs and their behavior and ways to make modern training skills more accessible to every dog owner.