5 Best Alternatives to Clicker Dog Training

Can I train my dog without a clicker? Absolutely yes! You can train your dog without a clicker and use one or a combination of the best alternatives to clicker dog training.

Best alternatives to clicker dog training include dominance training, positive reinforcement training, model-rival training, and relationship-based training. You may find yourself using any of the alternatives to clicker training since, like humans, dogs require different ways of learning.

Clicker alternatives for training dogs

Clicker alternatives for training dogs

Some of the best alternative methods of training your dog without a clicker include the following:

1. Model-rival or mirror dog training

Irene Pepperberg is the brain behind this dog training method, initially employed for training parrots. But, the training approach has been tried and tested to be effective with dogs.

As an alternative to homemade clicker training, model-rival training involves learning by example. The principle depends on the instincts of a dog in operating socially. 

Your dog learns by being placed in front to observe a rival or another dog with good behavior. It then gets compensate for proper learning or scolded for bad behavior. 

Mirror training is most effective and easy when you have a firm bond with your canine friend, and she is fond of following you around.

The training is comfortable and can widen the skill set of your dog.

However, model-rival dog training may not be popular as it demands plenty of focus and repetition and a tight bond between the dog and its owner.

2. Positive reinforcement dog training

This dog training alternative is well-known courtesy of dog trainers, like Dawn Sylvia-Stasiewicz. Sylvia trained Obama’s furry friend called Bo. Sadly, the pet died at 12 years of age on May 8, 2021, due to cancer.

With positive reinforcement dog training or reward-based training, a dog is induced to exhibit proper behavior. In theory, rewarding a dog for a nice behavior means it will continue with the behavior.

The reward for positive behavior can either be praise, a show of love, giving of treats (hot dogs), or toys. It is upon you to find the reward adored by your canine friend. Reward your dog promptly so that it connects the act with good behavior.

Bad behavior should earn no reward and may lead to the removal of an earlier prize given. Yet, avoid physically punishing your pet.

The disadvantage of R+ training is that it requires plenty of patience and time to have the desired effect.

3. Science-based dog training

Scientific training of a dog relies on empirical evidence for achieving the best dog behavior. This alternative to clicker dog training depends on information from animal behaviorists and studies of dog emotion and cognition.

According to science, training a dog should involve rewards and punishments. And avoid rewarding every good behavior.

Scientific dog training is still a relatively new training approach, making its proper categorization a challenge. There is a need to access and use the latest studies for training, and there are different findings availed regularly. 

Science-based training can help you learn more about the behavior of your pet. Also, it demands you to stay up to date with recent scientific information.

Because of the research involved, the approach should be left to an expert dog trainer.

4. Relationship-based training

Relationship-based training recognizes that your pet has feelings, which are well-considered when teaching her different, easy-to-understand commands.

Generally, the dog training approach promotes an enduring and worthwhile bond between you and your canine friend.

Ensure your canine friend is happy and comfortable during training. For example, avoid training your dog in an environment with distractions and stressors. After learning in a calm environment, teach her to respond to your commands in an area with distractions.

Only increase the level of training once the earlier commands taught have been mastered. Recognize the body language of your dog and rewards that motivates, and train at her pace.

However, relationship-based dog training needs time and endurance.

Moreover, Moreover, dogs with a firm will may find it difficult to follow commands or instructions. Dog training experts also discourage its application when multiple dogs are involved, a recipe for distraction.

5. Alpha or dominance dog training

It is based on the perceptions and findings of the wolves pack behavior presented in the late 1940s by Rudolph Schenkel. The “Alpha Wolf” phrase was made prominent by David Mech in his 1970 publication. 

Alpha or dominance training mainly demands positively punishing your dog. For bad behavior, subject the dog to a correction solution, like an alpha roll placement. The training also requires the adoption of a set of ground rules. For instance, when walking, always be the leader.

The training program may incorporate electronic static or vibrating collars in fine-tuning behaviors.

Also, other training professionals may rely on the incorporation of positive rewards. A combination of positive reinforcement and punishments delivers a stabilized training or approach.

Remember though that the study of Schenkel has some critical flaws and shortcomings, including that:

  • Only captive wolves were studied.
  • The latest studies of wild wolves reveal that they live under family units. The alphas are the parents and within family units, there is no competition for dominating each other.
  • As a biologist, Mech has continued to denounce his alpha wolf idea and register his disappointment with the ongoing publication of his work.
  • Although wolves and dogs are closely-related species, they are genetically different. There is a difference in behavioral traits and social structure.

Because of the issues raised, avoid alpha/dominance dog training. Your relationship with the dog can be harmed beyond repair since the approach generates fear and distrust. The dog is forced to be more aggressive.

To be a respected leader, avoid relying on fear and threats. Instead, find a way to be a gentle and yet firm leader of your dog.

Disadvantages of clicker training

Disadvantages of clicker training, whether using a pen clicker or homemade clicker include:

  • It may be a costly approach. For some dogs, it may take time before they understand the meaning behind a sound. You may have to use lots of treats. A large dog breed needs even more meaningful and considerable treats.
  • Some dog breeds may dislike it. You may need to use a clicker like a pen clicker with a softer sound.
  • It must be delivered precisely and so avoid accidental sounds or clicks.
  • The need for your dog to have a high drive for toys or food, which are rewards for positive behavior.
  • Behaviors learned can be effortlessly abandoned, especially if the reward drive is low and training completion is not finalized accordingly.
  • It may not help to eliminate unpleasant behaviors, such as constant barking.
  • You may need to learn how to use a clicker before starting dog training.
  • The approach may cause the conditioning or reorientation of a dog. A dog may not follow a command until it hears the sound first.
  • Complex tricks demand extensive knowledge, exercise, coordination, and accurate timing.

In conclusion, only choose the right dog training approach. From the different options, consider the needs of your dog, the resources needed, and the training goal. For instance, to teach your dog to be agile, positive clicker training may be the right choice. On the contrary, employing dominance training may not be feasible if your dog may suffer from clicks or sounds causing anxiety. 

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