When it’s time to train your dog, think about these things: We talked about conditioning.…
Clicker training a dog is easier than using many other methods of training. Because the dog gets a positive reinforcement when he does something right, he is usually excited and enthusiastic about behaving in a way that will result in rewards over and over again.
In this part, we’ll look at the details of how to begin clicker training your dog.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What do you need for clicker training?
- When is the right time to begin clicker training?
- How to introduce the concept of clicker training
- Training your dog
- Continuing the training
- Reducing use of the clicker and the treats
Of course, each dog owner’s experience will vary. Some dogs will take easily and quickly to clicker training while those more stubborn dogs (and you know if you have one) will resist a bit more. Never fear. If you have problems, check chapter 6 for tips on how to handle them.
What do you need?
Your supply list for clicker training your dog is fairly short. How does a clicker and treats sound? It’s really that simple.
You can buy a clicker at just about any pet store. They can be had for under $2 or as much as $5. You can also buy bundle deals that include the clicker and a video or books that help along the process. But if you only want to spend a couple of dollars, that’s all you have to spend.
When you first start, it’s best to keep treats on hand that are really delicious and exciting for your dog. Many experts recommend that you start with small chunks of meat or chicken and then gradually adjust by giving your dog kibble as treats.
You will eventually phase out treats altogether.
Because you want to really encourage and inspire that good behavior, that behavior that earns a “click”, it’s good to ply your dog with the good stuff to begin with.
When should you begin clicker training?
With some types of training, it might seem that if your dog isn’t a puppy, then it’s too late. You missed the window to get him trained.
Thankfully, clicker training is not like that. You can begin clicker training anytime. Of course, it is easier to train your dog as puppy when he’s most likely to want to please, when he hasn’t had the chance to establish bad habits and when he’s most “moldable”, but you can train even older dogs. In this case, you CAN teach an old dog new tricks.
As for time of day or when in the course of your life, it’s best to begin clicker training when your dog is fresh. Don’t begin clicker training when you have returned from a long walk or your dog just came in from playing football with kids. Get your dog after a nap, first thing in the morning, whenever he’s fresh and alert.
If you just moved, or there have been other major changes in the house (a new dog, a new cat, a new baby), you might want to hold off on the training. Like children, the conditions for dogs should be good for learning something new, for being asked to perform differently than they are accustomed to performing.
As well, there are times in your dog’s life when new routines and new expectations aren’t ideal: When your dog is sick, or has puppies, for example.
How to introduce the concept
There are different schools of thought about how to introduce the clicker, but here’s our take: Dogs like to examine things, so let your dog check it out.
When you get the clicker, show your dog the clicker. Don’t click at first and we’ll tell you why in a minute. But let your dog sniff it, and get his head around this little object a bit.
Don’t let him carry it off in his mouth or chew on it. This isn’t a toy and that should be made clear. You want your dog to have some reverence for the sounds that come from the clicker because it’s the clicker that will bring the reward. Your dog should get a sense of what it looks like and what it smells like, if he chooses, but that’s about it. He doesn’t need to have an intimate relationship with it.
Don’t click the clicker when you are not training your dog. Don’t click it unless you are trying to make note of a good behavior. If you click for the heck of it, or to show your dog what it does, you will confuse the dog.
For those reasons, we suggest carrying the clicker only when you plan to do your clicker training and to keep the clicker away from the kids or others who might play with it.
Especially once your dog is somewhat clear on the concept of clicker training, this can be troublesome to the dog.
It will also negate any hard work you have done to train your dog as he will not understand that when you click DURING training that he’s done right and has achieved the mark. If he hears it all the time, it diminishes the importance of hearing that “click”.
Filed Under: Clicker Training