How to Train Labrador Puppies with a Clicker

Medium
2-12 Weeks
General

Introduction

Clicker training is an exciting concept that focuses on marking a good behavior with a satisfying click sound and earning a tasty treat as a reward. When you click train your puppies, you will be using a training clicker for every single behavior or trick you teach them. Any time they are well behaved or do a good job and earn a reward, you're going to click first so they can begin to connect the behavior you marked with a click with the tasty treat they receive. 

Click training will work in various steps depending on the trick you're going to teach your little Lab pups. You may click your training clicker several times over the course of a training session for one trick, or you may just use it once when your puppies are successful at achieving a trick. Focus on basic obedience commands first, starting with ‘sit’ and building from there to ‘down’ and ‘stay.’ 

Defining Tasks

Because clicker training focuses on marking good behaviors, your clicks are going to focus on marking milestones during methods while learning a trick. Once your puppies understand the concept of a trick and can complete the entire trick on his own, you will only mark the completion of the trick. For instance, if you were to teach your pups how to lie down by command, you might click first when they sit and then click when they are successful at lying down on the ground. However, once 'down' becomes a command they understand, you will no longer click on the 'sit' position but rather only when they are lying down per the command. These basic obedience commands will act like building blocks with one another. The next command will build upon the previous command. Train your little guys as a group and keep their attention by staying in front of them with treats for everyone as long as they hit their marks.

Getting Started

Choose some basic obedience commands you want to teach your Labrador puppies and schedule some short training sessions to work with them. You will need your training clicker as well as a bag full of small but tasty treats to reward your little guys for each milestone as well as marking the behavior once they succeed at the trick. Group training can be challenging but you can hold their attention with rewards.

The Basic Commands Method

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Step
1
Sit
Train your Labrador puppies to sit using a clicker for positive rewarding. Hold a treat over the group's heads then move it back towards their tails, causing them to sit on their haunches. When they do so, click your clicker and give each a treat. The sound of the clicker marks the positive behavior. Only give treats to those who sit at this point. Keep practicing as a group.
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2
Down
Once your puppies know 'sit', put them in a sitting position and click and treat. Take a second treat and entice them by bringing the treat down towards the floor and pull it out away from the group. They should get into a 'down' position in order for their noses to follow the treat. As soon as their bellies touch the floor and they are lying down, click to mark the good behavior and give each one a treat.
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3
Stay
Put your Labrador pups in a 'sit' position, click and treat to mark the positive behavior and reward them. Then give a new command. Ask your pups to "stay" and turn your back. For each pup who doesn't move, click and treat immediately and give the reward. Keep practicing this trick except instead of only turning your back, take some steps away from the group. Practice often.
Step
4
Come
Again, start with your puppies in a 'sit' position and give the reward of marking the behavior with a click and a tasty treat. Ask your little guys to 'stay'. Turn your back, click and treat, give a reward, then ask them to "come". To do this, you may need to get excited. When any of them gets up and comes towards you, click to mark the behavior and reward with a tasty treat.
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5
Understanding click
The trick to clicker training is to understand that you are marking good behavior for your dogs. Some dogs look forward to the tasty treat they earn, but they want to hear that satisfying rewarding click sound because that's what tells them that what they just did is exactly what you were looking for.
Step
6
Always practice
No matter what trick you are training your Labrador puppies to do, practice a lot and as often as you can. Remember your pups might not have a long attention span so you will need to be prepared to have several short training sessions rather than one long training session each day.
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The Mark Behavior Method

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Step
1
Basic commands
Train your Labrador puppies to do basic commands. Each time they hit a basic command, click your training clicker and give a treat. This marks a positive behavior, conditioning your puppies to understand what it is you want and hit that same behavior each time you ask for it. The tasty treat is the reward they get for reaching the marked behavior.
Step
2
Fun tricks
After your Labrador puppies have learned a few basic commands such as 'sit' and 'down', you can start teaching fun tricks such as 'give me your paw' or 'roll over'. Be sure to click and treat not only at the end of these tricks when they reach the final command but also as they hit each step while learning these commands. For instance, if you're going to ask your puppies to give you his paw but they need to sit first, be sure to click and treat the marked behavior of 'sit' before you move on to asking for paws.
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3
Leash training
Anytime you take your puppies out on a leashes take your clicker with you for at leash training. If each pup is behaving well, click and treat to reward that good behavior every few steps or at least every so often. If you have to redirect a puppy, do not offer him that reward of the click and treat.
Step
4
Potty training
You can even click train your puppies while housebreaking them. Be sure you know the signs and times when you should be taking them out to go potty. Take your clicker and a treat with you so when each is successful and goes where he is supposed to go, you can give him a click and treat reward. They will begin to associate this click and treat with all behaviors across the board whether the expectation is of good behavior or tricks you are teaching.
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5
General clicking
Any time you catch your puppies behaving well, do not hesitate to click and treat. If you call any by name and are acknowledged, click and treat. If you ask one to come to you, click and treat if he does. This builds up their confidence and bank of positive rewards and conditions the mind to know rewards will come when they are good listeners and make good choices.
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The Starting Early Method

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Start with names
You can train your puppies early on to expect a click and treat reward for simple tasks, fun tasks and difficult tasks as well as good behaviors. Introduce the clicker to your pups by teaching their names. Say a name and when that puppy looks at you, click and treat. Repeat this several times to the group so each understands the click is the reward for recognizing their names and acknowledging you.
Step
2
Good behavior
The wonderful thing about clicker training is it is a good behavior based reward system. Your puppies will make mistakes and poor choices as a result of mistakes. However, with clicker training, you are going to reward the good and redirect the bad. Any time you catch your little guys doing something good, click and treat. This builds confidence and reminds them of good choices.
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3
Poor behavior
Dog clicker training is not a punishment based behavioral training system. Your dogs are going to make poor choices and will need to be redirected. Any time you catch one making a poor choice, redirect him by showing him what he should be doing. When you catch any of them doing what he should be doing on his own, be sure to click and treat to remind him of positive behavior and always redirect negative behaviors.
Step
4
Have fun
Make clicker training for your pups fun and exciting. When you grab the clicker, your dogs are going to get excited because they know rewards are coming. If they know rewards are coming they also know expectations are coming as well.
Step
5
Basic training
Be sure to train basic obedience in steps and reward with a click and treat for each step as your dogs reach those milestones. Set up your milestones such as 'sit' before learning how to lie down, sitting and lying down before learning how to stay, and click and reward each one of those milestones. Clicker training makes obedience training stress-free because as your puppies reach those milestones, you know whether or not to move forward or go back and retrain.
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