Bringing a new puppy into the family is a magical thing. It’s an exciting time for both the parents and children. Unfortunately, getting a puppy means lots of training and work. It’s rare that you get a fully potty-trained dog and does whatever commands you need them to do. If you want to speed up the training process, you can use clicker training for your dog.
What is clicker training?
A clicker is a small device that you hold in your hand with a button on it. When the button is pressed, it makes a loud clicking noise. The goal of clicker training is to show positive reinforcement towards the dog when the button is pressed.
It’s important to remember when puppy clicker training to get the timing right. If you don’t press the clicker simultaneously as the dog gets rewarded; they won’t understand that the sound is meant to reward them.
How does clicker training work?
Clicker training works because the button on the device gives off an artificial sound that dogs don’t typically hear. This captures their attention when puppy clicker training, which can be hard to do with young dogs. The more the puppy is trained, the more they start to associate the sound with positivity.
When clicker training dogs, you won’t always have to give them treats. It is recommended, however, as it speeds up the process of training. You can slowly wean them off the treats, and eventually, they will consider the “click” itself a reward.
How to train with a clicker
The first thing to do when you get a clicker is to introduce your dog to it. Because the clicker makes such an artificial noise, it’s common for some dogs to be scared of it at first. To avoid this, do a few test clicks in the same vicinity as the dog. For example, click the clicker when you and the dog are both in the living room. Avoid getting in the dog’s face and pressing the button, which will scare them even more.
Once the dog is used to the clicker’s sound, it’s time to break out the treats. You can use whatever your dog responds to, but it’s recommended to use small pieces of chicken or cheese. This is because the puppy is probably already used to the kibble you feed him, but cheese or chicken is a true reward. You want your puppy to associate that reward with the click. To start with, press the button and give the dog a treat. Don’t ask for any action from the dog; press the clicker and reward them with a treat.
What this does to the dog is teaches them that the sound of a click equals food. It’s the equivalent of saying “Good boy!” and giving them a treat. In fact, many dogs who have already been trained how to sit (typically the first trick taught) by a treat will start automatically sitting when they hear the clicking noise. They know they get a treat, and they get a treat when they sit, thus the sitting.
Teaching a dog tricks with the clicker
Clicker training dogs is one of the easiest methods of teaching tricks. As mentioned previously, the most important thing to get right is the timing. If you ask your dog to sit, and he does, you want to press the clicker button as soon as his butt touches the floor. If you ask your dog to look at you, you press the clicker as soon as the dog makes eye contact. You want the dog to pick up on the fact that “click” means “good boy!” if they haven’t already.
For more complex tricks, such as play dead, break the trick up into simple steps. Start by getting your pet to lay down, then click. Next, use a treat to get the dog to look over his shoulder, then click again. Increase this movement gradually until he gets to where he actually rolls over, then press the clicker. Continue to praise and “click” at your dog as long as he maintains the trick.
Do you need to use treats with clicker training?
Treats aren’t as important as one might think when it comes to clicker training but are definitely helpful to get the dog to do what you want.
They are a good method to use at the beginning of training, but a well-timed click should serve just as well when done properly. By combining the two, you’re communicating with your dog in a simple yet understanding way.
How important is the clicker itself?
One of the most commonly asked questions about training with a clicker is if the clicker itself is really necessary. Many people wonder if they can make a noise and use some other device to make a sound that the dog will respond to.
While it’s recommended to use an actual clicker for best results, you can use other objects in a pinch. It’s advised to be as close to a “click” as you can get, as this artificial sound captures even the youngest puppy’s attention. A marker, pen, or even retractable dog leash all work in mimicking the sound of a clicker. If you can’t mimic that click, go with another sound that the dog won’t commonly hear, such as a whistle or a bell.
Several apps can be downloaded from GooglePlay or the Apple Store to act as a clicker and give you step-by-step guides on how to teach your pet certain tricks.
Cynthia L. Collins is a devoted dog lover, behaviorist, and dog mom to her two rescued Shih Tzus Romeo and Elvis and an Australian Shepherd, Bandit. She is the main editor of smartdoglife.com. She grew up on a farm in Arizona, surrounded by many four-legged companions. When she isn’t working, she volunteers in a local shelter and various animal welfare organizations.
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