Clicker training dogs may seem complicated, but it’s actually deceptively simple. The clicker is just a training aid that lets your dog know that it will receive a treat for what it has just done.
Why Clicker Train Your Dog?
It just so happens to be one of the more efficient methods of training animals in general, not just dogs. The concept of the clicker can be used with a voice command, whistle, or another sound that lets the dog know immediately what they’ve done right.
If you have a dog and you ask them to sit, which they do, but then gets up immediately, a clicker can let them know that the sitting is what you are rewarding them for.
Step by Step Training with a Clicker
In order to start clicker training dogs, you need to have a clicker or other noisemaker and some treats. Once you have these, you are ready to show your dog what a clicker is all about.
Step One: Click and Treat
Call your dog to you and click, then give a treat. Continue to do this at least six or seven times. By this point, your dog will realize that a click means they get a treat. You’ve now taught them the purpose of a clicker.
Step Two: Test the Reaction
Try clicking the clicker. Your dog should immediately respond. Reward and move on to the next step.
Step Three: Click, Command and Reward
If your dog already knows a command or two, use the command. For example, you might say, “sit.” As soon as your dog sits, click and reward. Make sure you click as soon as the dog’s rear end touches the ground, since this is what you’re aiming for.
Step Four: Teach a Basic Command
You’re now ready to start teaching desired behavior. Choose a command that you want your dog to learn and use a treat to get them to perform the action. As soon as they do it, click and reward. For example, if you want to teach your dog to lie down, you can hold a treat and lure them to the floor. As soon as those front legs go down, click and reward.
Step Five: Add a Verbal Command
You can add a verbal command as you train, or you can train with the clicker and then give a command. Either way, your dog should associate the word with the action. You can give the verbal command, then give your dog the motion or lure to get them to do the movement you want, then click and reward.
Step Six: Move Up to Complicated Commands
Once you’re ready to teach your dog something more complicated, you can work your way up to the training by clicking and rewarding for each step of the move. For example, if you are training a dog to sit, stay, and wait to eat a piece of food, you would click and reward each step and work your way up to the final desired result.
Tips to Make Clicker Training Dogs More Effective
To be sure that your dog responds well to the clicker training, you should focus on doing it well. These tips will help your training be the most effective possible.
Use good treats.
When you’re starting out, you really want to catch the dog’s attention. This means a bit of dog food isn’t going to cut it. You need a favorite treat to really get your point across. Small pieces of chicken, bacon, or similar can be great for starting out. You can transition to a simpler treat later, once the clicker has become a regular part of training.
Click once, reward once.
Don’t click more than once per action, since this can confuse your dog. You want to click when they do what you’ve asked or what you want. Multiple clicks will indicate multiple actions and the dog won’t be sure which one is right.
Reward within three seconds.
It’s important that your dog understand the treat comes with the clicking. To ensure this is the case, you should give the reward within three seconds of clicking.
Don’t forget the praise.
Not all dogs are willing to perform for food and some will react just as well to praise as they do to a treat. Make sure you also include praise as you move through clicker training.
Start with a quiet, distraction-free space.
Begin your training in a calm environment where your dog can focus entirely on you. Once they have the idea, you can move on to an area with more distractions.
Clicker training can be a terrific way to get your dog to pay attention to you and it can also allow you to catch desired behaviors when your pet does them on its own. You may then click and reward to help encourage that behavior, giving it a cue later on. Most dogs respond very well to clicker training and you may find that even a puppy that is resistant to regular training will learn better with a clicker.