Tips

How to Use Clicker Training to Communicate With Your Dog

Using a clicker helps you to get your timing exactly right when you’re teaching your dog. A clicker is a small boxlike gadget enclosing a flat strip of metal that produces a distinctive “click” sound when you press it with your thumb—a clear, clean noise that a dog can pick up and respond to easily. You can use it to reinforce your dog’s actions. Having accustomed him to the way it works, you click it just as he is doing what you want him to do, whether that’s sitting, fetching, or anything else.

The principle is to use the clicker as an event marker for your dog. The click happens immediately when the dog behaves in the way you want and signals that a reward will follow. It’s particularly useful if you find it difficult to keep your requests short, or if you tend to do too much talking as you teach.

WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?

Teach your dog what a clicker means—and that is that a reward is coming.

  1. Wait for a moment when your dog isn’t engaged by anything, and have a pocketful of small but highvalue treats (such as tiny pieces of cheese or sausage) on hand. Click the clicker and give your dog a treat. Now the clicker will become an object of interest .
  1. Click it again, and again give him a treat. (If he looks up and moves toward you, that’s great, but at this
    point the treat is unconditional—he’s learning that click equals treat.)
  1. Spend a few days practicing with a short session every day without adding any new elements, until your dog clearly associates the click with the treat he’s going to get and the clicker is getting his attention instantly.
  1. Now you can move on to things your dog already knows how to do and incorporate the clicker. For example, if you’re telling him to sit, say “Sit.” And at the moment he’s in the act of sitting, click the clicker and follow up—immediately—with a treat.

The click happens as your pet does what you want him to do and sends a clear
message that it’s the right thing to do. It’s a noise that isn’t easily confused with
anything else and, provided you can master the split-second timing needed to
click just when your dog is doing the thing you’ve asked rather than before he
starts or after he’s finished, the clicker is a successful way to train.

WHAT HE LEARNS


Your dog will learn that the click means a treat, and he will quickly figure out the specific behavior that earns the treat.

WHY IT’S USEFUL


Once your dog is accustomed to a clicker, you can use it out and about as well as
at home and in circumstances in which he might otherwise be distracted. It’s also a useful tool when you start to teach tricks or games that happen in several stages.

jasmin

I'm a professional dog trainer who is sharing my journey as I transition to positive reinforcement based dog training methods.

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