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Have you found that teaching your pooch is hard work, and that he or she rarely responds to voice commands, or takes a long time to pick things up? Then clicker training could prove to be a more helpful way of training your pet. Clicker training has many benefits, in particular, that it takes away any ambiguity seen in voice commands. As a click is much quicker than a voice command, it explains to your four-legged friend the exact time at which they’ve gotten behavior right, explaining in crystal clarity what behavior your pooch is receiving the reward for. This builds a much better relationship between man and pooch, as both of you will have a better understanding of what you want from each other.
As well as the main benefit of having better clarity with regards to what you want from your pooch, clicker training also allows more repetitions of your pooch’s behavior without him losing motivation. As this is a reward-based form of training, sessions will last longer, as your dog will lose less interest than those forms of training that are not reward-based. It should not be difficult to clicker train your dog, but as with all new tricks a few training sessions taking 1-2 weeks will be required and it would be best to begin clicker training with a basic trick such as ‘sit’. This trick is suitable for both adult dogs and puppies, although the earlier start the better.
First things first, to clicker train your pooch, you’ll need a clicker. These are easily purchased from pet stores or online. Treats or toys will also be required, as you’ll be rewarding, praising and treating to accompany the clicks. As clicker training is, in a way, a form of conditioning, you’ll need a distraction-free environment to clicker train your pooch. Even when Pavlov was feeding his dogs in his infamous experiment, he had to replace the feeding assistants with automatic feeders, as the dogs were getting too distracted. Therefore, a distraction-free zone is necessary. Now let’s teach you how to train your pup to get used to that clicker.
The Clicker Tricks Method
Treat, treat and treat
Every time you use the clicker when teaching your pooch a trick, always click and then treat when he gets it right. He’ll need to associate the clicker with some form of reward. If not, why should he pay the clicker any attention?
Don't always keep the treats in plain sight
Your dog needs to know that responding to you is how they earn their treats. Hide some treats away and mix it up, getting the treat out when they’ve got the behavior right, clicking beforehand.
Click for correct behavior only
Don’t use the clicker for anything other than recognizing correct behavior. If you use it to get your pooch's attention, it will confuse him.
To begin clicker training, start with easy tricks such as ‘sit’ and ‘paw’ so that your dog knows the basics of getting the behavior right equals a click and a reward. Complicated tricks could confuse your pooch and the use of the clicker at the beginning.
Teach a variety of tricks with the clicker
The clicker should be used in combination with voice commands and eventually when he understands the command, you should be able to remove the clicker and use the voice command only. However, if this is going to happen, you’ll need to teach him a variety of tricks, so he understands the pattern of getting something right means a click and a reward.
The Getting Used to It Method
Have a play around with the clicker and make sure you get the hang of it, before starting to use it around your pooch. Remember the click needs to be quick and at the exact time your pooch does what you want him to.
Practice with your pooch
Introduce the clicker to your dog; you’ll need to teach him what it means. Every time you click and your dog turns to you, give him a treat. You’ll need to have the treat in your hand for different amounts of time before you click and treat, so that he doesn’t know when it’s coming.
Does he like the clicker?
Some dogs will be scared of the clicker. If this is the case, try and purchase one that’s a little gentler for him or wrap the clicker in something to soften the sound.
Choose somewhere distraction-free
Choose a nice, quiet, distraction-free location, so that your dog will be fine tuned to the sound of the clicker.
Click at good behaviors
Watch your pooch. When he does a good behavior naturally, be sure to click and give him a treat.
Teach new behaviors with commands
At each step of the new behavior you want to teach your pooch, click and treat. This will give him constant positive reinforcement. When he gets used to the trick, add in a verbal cue as well as the clicker. After he’s confident with it, the verbal cue should be enough.
The Different Clicks Method
Test the clicker out
You can usually produce different toned clicks on most clickers, faster and slower, clicks or example.
Click and treat
For any good behaviors, make sure you give a click followed by a treat.
Timing is crucial
The click needs to be given at the exact moment your pooch gets it right, not too early or late.
A quicker, louder click can show special enthusiasm. However never increase the number of clicks, only the number of treats.
Short but sweet
Try to keep sessions to 5 minutes or so. If you make it too long the clicker will become boring and your pooch will lose interest.
By Catherine Lee-Smith
Published: 11/10/2017, edited: 01/08/2021