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Owning a puppy is exciting and rewarding. However, while your puppy is young he will need most of your attention and cannot be left alone for long periods of time. He will need to be taught many skills and behaviors to grow into a loyal and obedient companion.
A great way of communicating with your puppy during training is with a clicker. A clicker is a small device that produces a distinct ‘click’ noise and will signal to your puppy when he has performed a behavior correctly. Your puppy will in time learn to associate the click sound with good behavior and a reward, such as a treat. You ideally must give the reward within 3 seconds of giving the click for him to make this association. Clicker training is a better method for teaching your puppy new skills than other reward-based training because he will learn exactly which behavior he is getting rewarded for.
You must be committed to training your puppy in the early stages of his life when he is quick to take on new information and has not yet learned bad habits that will be hard to change. You will get the most out of training if you reward your puppy for his good behavior. Be careful not to punish his unwanted behavior, this will only make him unmotivated to perform the desired behavior at all. Instead, simply ignore the unwanted behavior and have patience teaching him new skills.
Teaching your puppy to sit should ideally take around 2 -3 weeks depending on how often you practice and how fast he learns new behaviors. The aim is to get him to respond eventually just to your vocal command for ‘sit’. You should vary the environments that you train in so that he does not associate one behavior with a particular place.
Puppy training requires a lot of patience and a positive attitude. Be sure to set aside at least an hour a day to train your puppy, however, this is best broken into smaller chunks, such as 10- 15 minutes, so that he does not get bored.
Before you start training you will need to source a clicker tool, which can be picked up from any reputable pet shop. You will also need a generous supply of delicious treats to reward him for any good behavior after you have given the click. Once you have gathered your tools, the work can begin!
The Association Method
Make it fun
The first step to using a clicker is to introduce your puppy to the tool. You should look to introduce the clicker while playing a game with him so that he learns to associate it with fun.
Find one of your puppy's favorite toys and initiate a fun game with him, such as tug and pull.
Get his attention
While playing with him, use his name to get his attention. When he looking at you and has shown that he has listened to you, give a ‘click’ with the clicker. Be sure to give your puppy a treat within three seconds of hearing the mark.
Click and treat
You will be able to tell when your puppy has made an association between the clicker and the behavior because his ears will prick up and he will look around for the treat after hearing the ‘click’.
Once your puppy consistently looks at you when asking for his attention and giving a ‘click’, you can start to teach him behaviors
The Treat Lure Method
Start by kneeling beside your puppy. Have the clicker in one hand and a tasty treat in the other.
Focus on the treat
Hold the treat out in front of you until it captures his attention and he is looking straight at it.
Follow the treat
You can then start to move the treat slowly to above his head. His eyes should follow the treat so that he is looking upwards trying to follow it.
Give the vocal command to ‘sit’ in an assertive voice while continuing to move the treat backward slowly. With practice, his bum should naturally touch the ground as his eyes follow the treat
Sit and reward
As soon he sits, give a ‘click’ of the clicker and reward him with a treat. Be patient as it might take a few tries before your puppy gets the hang of it
The Contact Method
Start by kneeling in front of or beside your puppy. If he tries to jump at you or is overexcited, gently push him away and ignore this behavior until he has calmed down
You will need to hold the clicker in one hand and have the other hand free in order to guide his bottom down to the ground
Once you have his attention, give the vocal command to ‘sit’ in an assertive voice
Place your hand on his bum and gently push his bottom to the ground. If he resists at first, take your hand off and try again. The key is not to push too hard or you may hurt him and he won’t want to perform the behavior
After a few tries, your puppy's bottom will eventually touch the ground. As soon as he has sat down, give a ‘click’ of the clicker and reward him with a treat
Practice makes perfect
Practice teaching him to sit a few times for around 10 minutes at a time. In as little as a couple of weeks, you can start to take away the clicker and treats and just use the vocal command
By Lola Hobbs
Published: 04/02/2018, edited: 01/08/2021