After charging a clicker do I stop using treats

I think you are misunderstanding what “charging the clicker” means. It means that you create an association between the sound of the click and the treat, and you only ever need to do this once when you first introduce the clicker to the dog. I usually recommend my students do this 10 times. It helps them get acquainted with clicking, and helps them, as well as the dogs understand the concept.

Following this set of 10 click/treats (click and then treat, repeated 10 times), then you can start training. The puppy understands that click predicts a food treat, so that when he hears the click, he comes to expect a treat and starts to work for the treats. The click takes on secondary reinforcement value.

The click should be made at the time a behavior occurs. For example, if you want to mark a sit, click at the moment the puppy sits his rear end on the floor or ground. If you want to mark a recall, it gets a little more complicated, but basically you click for movement toward you. As Caroline said, every click must be followed by a treat in order for the click to remain reliable as a predictor of reinforcement.

Don’t be too quick to wean off the treats. Once the dog has learned the behavior and is performing reliably, I stop the clicking, but I continue to deliver treats on a one to one reinforcement schedule (a treat for each time the dog performs the behavior) for a while, depending on the dog, the behavior and the situation before changing the schedule to an intermittent reinforcement schedule (a treat given sometimes after a behavior is performed, but not every time). I will often add in secondary reinforcers such as praise and play before reducing the food. Food given on an intermittent schedule is very reinforcing and will keep the behavior strong.

Please see the following videos for more help. The first is a video introducing clicker training concepts, and the second is one in which I am teaching a dog how to sit using clicker training, so you can see the principles put to use. The third video may also be helpful; it shows how to correct behaviors using clicker training.

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I am a horse trainer and have been using clicker training for 16+ years. I never stop reinforcing the bridge or marker (click) signal. My rule is every click is followed by a reward because the click is (and stays) a bridge signal: to connect the desired behaviour to the reward.

In general: you use a click & treat to teach (new) behaviours. Established behaviours you only have to reward once in a while.

You don’t have to click all the time for every behaviour. Once a (complete) behaviour is learned you can change the reward ratio from continuous to variable. Setting yourself up for Success: Reward schedule (it is about horses but also applies for other species). So you can change to 1 click every 3 good behaviours and click less and less for the same behaviour until it is a habit.

After your dog had learned multiple behaviours, you can start ‘chaining’ them. You can click once for two well performed behaviours. Then you only click after the second behaviour. Now you have two behaviours for one click. You can make the chains longer and longer. Start with the end behaviour in a chain and add new behaviours before that one.

You can also reward behaviour with behaviour instead of a treat, as long as the reward behaviour is reinforcing the desired behaviour. If your dog comes in the dog park when he is off leash, you can reward him with a game of retrieve or tug of war instead of a treat.

When you use a clicker, you NEVER EVER click without giving a reward. Mind you, that reward does not have to be treats, but there NEEDS to be a reward after a click. You can pet your dog super happily (not just a quick pat) or give him a toy.

On the other hand, you do not have to always click (and reward) after a behavior. Obviously, dogs can do behaviors without receiving rewards every single time, so the interval at which you click and give treats can vary). For instance, you can ask your dog “Sit. Down. Roll Over. High Five.” and THEN click at the end (but a reward has to come after). Or, you can tell your dog to sit and stay, and not click, and then the next time you ask for a sit and stay, you click.) If you want to read more on it, this is called the MAINTENANCE part of learning. (As opposed to the learning part, where you treat every time).

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Would you keep working if your boss stopped giving you a paycheck? Even if you liked your boss and your job? When we ask our pets to do something for us, we are asking them to do our choice of activity instead of their own. A treat – or, later, a game, chance to chase the squirrel, or other reward – is their paycheck — a “thank you” for doing as we asked that will make them want to keep on doing as we ask in the future.