The idea of it (or so the nurse at the vet told me) is that the puppy associates the click with a treat and that in time, the treat does not necessarily have to follow the click(for the right behaviour) immediately.
If you want to clicker train effectively, you WILL need to use treats (you can use toys, but praise isn't powerful enough). A click must always be
followed by a treat (or toy), otherwise it will quickly become meaningless. (Once the dog has learned the exercise, you will stop c/t ing every performance, BUT you will still be pairing treats with clicks)
There's lots of info on the net on clickertraining - three good places to start are:
Karen Pryor: Karen Pryor Clickertraining
Melissa ALexander: ClickerSolutions Training Articles Contents
We are taking Chester to puppy classes at PetSmart, mostly to socialize him. The trainer is insisting on clickers as well as treats as behavior motivators. I have had dogs all my life, and used to show my German Shepherd in obedience trials when I was in high school. I have never seen the need to use food rewards for training. What happens if you run out? Does the dog just ignore you? Or better yet, when we went to similar puppy classes with our Golden Retriever, she just ignored us...and the treats.
I think it has its place in training, but first and foremost, the dog needs to want to please you. And your praise should be its own reward.
Clicker training is extremely powerful when used appropriately.
BUT you really ought to have some training in what you're doing and how it should be done.
When I got Puff as a pup, I strongly considered using it. Since I'd taught the psychology of learning many semesters in college, I knew the principles but was concerned about the accuracy of my timing. (In clicker training, timing is everything.)
So I bought a DVD copy of "Sniffy, the Virtual Rat" which. essentially, is a computer game in which you train a virtual (computerized, avatar) animal (Sniffy) to do what you want by clicking to give rewards.
After practicing, I was too frustrated with the skill of my timing on clicking.
I decided to continue instead with the usual reward for the desired response (similar to a NiLiF method) that I'd used to successfully train my previous Lab, Bess.
For those with proper skill in timing, clicker training will be extremely powerful. For those without that skill, there are other equally powerful although slightly less efficient procedures.
"Sniffy, the Virtual Rat" is available in a Pro and Lite version, as well as used versions (about $15) from Amazon's cooperating merchants.
Yes, you need good timing for clicker (or ANY) training .. I've done the sniffy game and I've trained my dogs, and there's no comparison. The video is NOT the same thing, and not really that useful. Try not to overthink this: If you want to learn clicker training, just plunge in and try it. This is a good place to start: 101 Things to Do with a Box | Karen Pryor Clickertraining
Bob - you use an e-collar - timing is even MORE crucial with that. Screw up with a clicker - not a huge deal. Mis-time with an ecollar, and you could have huge issues.
I have become convinced clicker training is a great way to help teach basic OB, and will incorporate it with my next puppy.
Kaytris: You are totally correct, timing of corrections is important with an ecollar. I only correct for defiance (very, very rare), or lack of effort (blowing off a known command). If your not sure if you have lack of effort verses a simple mistake, no correction. If you think you might be late with a correction, you are too late, the "tie goes to the dog." In that situation, no nick, get the correction with attrition if you miss the window.
The biggest thing with clicker training is that the pup must offer the behaviour, and THEN you click. You don't click before and you don't show your pup how to do something. They learn fastest and best when they offer the behaviour.
A quick example is... if you want to teach your pup to touch your hand. Stand with your hand extended. Just stand there and wait. If the pup makes any move at all toward your hand, click and treat. If the pup doesn't physically move but maybe LOOKS at your hand, click and treat. You don't say anything. You don't move your hand to the pup. You stand with your hand extended and let the pup make all the moves. The pup will figure out how he's getting the treats. Once the pup is readily touching your hand, over and over, to get the click/treat, click/treat, click/treat, THEN you can name the action and tell the pup "Touch!" as you present your hand.
There are some great videos on clicker training online. Check them out.
And yes, there is definitely timing needed to clicker train, but it's not rocket-science and if you are off your timing a few times, your dog will probably still learn a lot.