Clicker Training 101 – Lesson 8 – Continuing Your Clicker Training

Lesson 8 - Continuing Your Clicker Training

Not only are you working here to get desirable behavior from your dog, but to get more desirable behavior all the time. That is, while we originally said to click even if the dog doesn’t sit all the way down when you give the “sit” command, eventually you want to mold the dog’s behavior so he completes the command properly.

Over time click only when the dog completes a command, not for his good effort. Simply wait the extra second is takes for the dog to complete the “sit” or “down” command, for example, before clicking.

It’s also a good idea to wait a few extra beats so your dog can truly master a particular command. When you tell your dog “down”, for example, wait a beat or two before clicking and giving a treat (if you are still giving treats).

If the command is “stay”, wait a few beats before giving your dog the click. “Down”, in particular, is a tough one for many dogs. They can perform the command, but will quickly get back up. By waiting a bit before giving the dog the “click”, he’s learning self discipline and will learn – over time – to control his response to the command better, so he can stay “down” as long as you need him to.

Phasing out treats

As you might have guessed from some of out useful tips above, you can use the clicker for more than your basic training commands. You might choose to never phase out the clicker. But you will phase out treats. Here’s how:

  • Start, as we said, with good quality treats. Your dog will enjoy beef cubes, chicken scraps, and leftover bacon. Simply keep on hand the extras and leftovers from your kitchen. If you don’t have any meat, consider pieces of cheese or even hard-boiled egg.
  • Once your dog is comfortable with clicker training and is responding, change the treats to high-quality store-bought treats. Something that’s quick to chew is important, so make the treats small and quick to eat and swallow.
  • After a period of time (generally when you both are well and comfortable with the clicker training), switch to an inexpensive – and less exciting — treat, such as your dog’s regular kibble.
  • Because you are now giving your dog common treats, he won’t be responding so much for the treat as to hear the click. It’s the click that brought the treat, and over time, he will work for the click, because that is what brings the positive response.
  • Finally, stop giving him treats altogether and simply click when you get the desired behavior.
  • If your dog begins to slide backward or he begins “forgetting” his training, start over again with better treats. You might have loosened the grip on the basic clicker training a bit too quickly.
  • Try to control your urge to give your dog verbal feedback. While our voices and our tone can convey much to the dog, the clicker is unemotional and the message is clear – mission accomplished – while our voices might not be as unequivocal in getting the message out.

Think you might have some problems? Read on for some tips for common clicker training problems.


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