How to Clicker Train a Chihuahua

Easy
4-8 Days
General

Introduction

Have you ever watch those dog videos online or TV where the dog has been trained to perform dozens of tricks? Things ranging from sneezing on cue to balancing on his front feet, to taking a bow at the end. Are you always delighted and amazed, thinking that that dog must just be brilliant or the trainer extremely skilled? What if your dog could learn those types of tricks? Or at least learn how to sit more quickly...

Clicker training is a type of training where you use a small clicker device, that makes a click noise, to communicate to your dog that he did the correct thing, at the exact instant that he did it. By using a clicker you can improve your timing and help your dog learn commands faster, while having a lot of fun as well. You can use clickers for training normal obedience, where you lure your dog with a treat into a certain position, showing your dog what to do and then clicking and rewarding your dog when he does it. You can also use clickers to put behaviors that your dog already does naturally, like sneezing or laying down, on cue by clicking and rewarding right when your dog does that behavior. If the trick or behavior is more complex, you can also use the clicker to communicate to your dog when he is on the right track, and did part of the command or trick correctly. This can encourage your dog to keep trying and to improve, or to learn the individual steps that are necessary for a multi-step trick.

Defining Tasks

In addition to being a very effective way to teach tricks, using clicker training to train your Chihuahua can also be a great way to build your dog's confidence level. If your Chihuahua is timid and does not respond well to other, more confrontational, training methods, then clicker training could be a great way to build your dog's confidence and teach him to like training. If your Chihuahua does not lack confidence but simply lacks motivation, then clicker training can also help to get your dog excited about training with you.

Expect it to take between five and eight days to clicker training your Chihuahua. If your dog is less motivated, then it might take longer. Many dogs will learn to associate the clicker with rewards quicker than five days, but it is important that you still practice for at least five days, so that your dog will remember the lesson long-term. You want the clicker to be a rewarding way to communicate with your dog when he has done something well for future training.

The most important part of clicker training is the timing. While teaching your dog what a clicker means it is very important to give your dog the reward and the click as closely together as possible. Once your dog understands that the click means that he did something correct and that he will receive a reward for it, it becomes less important to give your dog the treat right away, and more important to click exactly when your dog does the correct action. This is because after your dog understands what the clicker means, your dog will expect the treat to follow, so it is alright if it is slightly delayed. The clicker will be what communicates to your dog when he did the correct thing, so by clicking at the correct time your dog will know what action to repeat.

Getting Started

To get started you will need a clicker, great timing, and rewards. If you are using the 'Treat Luring' method or the 'Capture' method then you will need small, tasty treats, that are easy for your dog to eat, to use as a reward. If you are using the 'Toy' method, you will need your dog's favorite toy to use as a reward. You will also need a positive attitude to make clicker training fun for your dog. This is very important. Clicker training should be something that your dog enjoys doing. If you are angry or impatient with your dog while training then your dog will likely not be interested in training. Lastly, if you are using the 'Capture' method then you will need patience, and attentiveness while you wait for your dog to do the action that you are trying to put on cue.

The Treat Method

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Step
1
Get set up
To begin, choose your dog's favorite small, soft treat. Many dogs love freeze dried liver or real chicken. Have your dog sit or stand in front of you. Place a treat in one hand and your clicker in your other hand.
Step
2
Click
Click your clicker and immediately give your dog a treat. Try to space these two things as closely together as possible.
Step
3
Optional praise
If you are able to add in another element without loosing your timing, then you can add in praise also. Praise your dog at the same time that you click, so that it becomes a secondary source of communication for your dog.
Step
4
Repeat
Repeat clicking your clicker and giving your dog a treat. Do this very often for at least five days, until your dog gets very excited whenever he hears the sound of the clicker, even during unexpected times outside of your training sessions. It is important to practice it for several days so that your dog will commit it to long term memory in addition to short term memory.
Step
5
Add command
Once your dog understands that the sound of the clicker means that he will receive a reward, then you can use the clicker to teach a command. To use the clicker to teach your dog to do something such as 'sit', begin to lure him into the sitting position with a treat. The second that he does the thing that you are teaching him, which in this case is to touch his bottom to the floor to sit, then click and offer him a treat.
Step
6
Timing is everything
By clicking right when he does the desired action, 'sit', you are communicating that what he did right in that instant was the correct response. By communicating to him that he did the right thing right then, you are helping him to learn faster. The sound of clicker will also immediately let him know that a treat is coming, so that he feels happy even before he has received the treat. Anytime that you are teaching him something new, you can click the clicker right when he does it correctly, and then offer him a reward, to train him.
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The Capture Method

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Step
1
Choose what to train
To begin, choose an action that your dog naturally does that you would like to put on cue, such as lying down.
Step
2
Fill your hands
Place your clicker into your dominant, fastest hand, place a treat or toy into the other hand, and hide that hand behind your back.
Step
3
Wait
Stay close to your dog and watch him closely. Right when your dog begins to do the action that you are trying to put on cue, in this case 'down', then tell him "Down". As soon his stomach touches the ground, click your clicker and offer him a reward. When you offer him a reward try to do it as soon as you click your clicker, so that he will know that the clicker indicates that he did it right.
Step
4
Repeat
Look for opportunities to catch him doing the action that you are putting on cue. Try to practice this as often as possible for at least one week. Do this until your dog understands his new command and until he gets excited every time that he hears the clicker, in anticipation of a reward.
Step
5
Practice
When your dog has successfully learned the command that you have been trying to teach him by clicking the clicker and rewarding him, then choose another command that you would like to train and practice using the clicker for that as well. Practice using the clicker for dozens of commands to increase your dog's obedience level and to teach him fun tricks.
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The Toy Method

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Step
1
Find a toy
To begin, find your dog's favorite toy and hide it behind your back. Have your dog sit or stand in front of you, facing you. Place your clicker in your free hand, preferably whichever hand is your dominant, faster hand so that your timing will be good.
Step
2
Offer the toy
With your dog facing you, click your clicker and quickly hand your dog his toy. It is important that these two things take place as closely together as possible.
Step
3
Repeat
Repeat clicking the clicker and quickly handing your dog his toy multiple times a day, over at least a five day period. Do this until your dog gets very excited even when you surprise him by clicking the clicker outside of your normal training sessions. Even if your dog responds faster than five days, you will still need to do this for several days so that your dog will commit the training to long term memory before you move on.
Step
4
Use for lure training
When you have done the training for several days and your dog is responding with excitement before he sees the toy when you surprise him with clicks, then it is time to incorporate it into your other training. To incorporate it into lure training, simply click the trainer at the exact time that your dog does the thing that you are attempting to train, and then reward him with a treat right after. For example, if you are using the clicker to train your dog to sit, then lure your dog into the 'sit' position using a treat while telling your dog to "sit". As soon as your dog's bottom touches the ground click your clicker, and then offer a treat.
Step
5
Use for capturing
You can also use the clicker to train your dog to do things on command that he already does on his own. For example, if you are trying to teach your dog to 'wag' on cue then you can wait for your dog to get excited about something and begin wagging. Right when he begins wagging you can say "Wag" and click the clicker, and then offer a treat. This can be used for many other behaviors too, such as sneezing, yawning, scratching, barking, shaking off, sitting, and hundreds more.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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