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Dog Training With a Clicker: What You Need to Know

Charlotte Mathes

Do you have a dog at home that you’d like to train? Training a dog through the more conventional method (purely vocalizing commands and using rewards) may work at some point but did you know that there is a faster and more efficient way of doing things?

And all you will need to begin a more effective training regimen is a square plastic tool called a clicker. A clicker, as the name implies, produces a sharp loud click every time you press it. A simple clicker has but one metal part – a special, curved band that is designed to produce a sound when you apply a bit of pressure to it.

Clicker training has been used for decades to train a variety of animals, not just dogs. Professional animal trainers have successfully trained lions, dolphins and even rats to respond to clickers! Because of the simplicity of the training design, anyone can start training their pet dog with a clicker.

Why does clicker training work so well with dogs? The simplest explanation is that it bridges the obvious language gap between animals and humans. A single click followed by some small treat/reward seals specific types of behavior in the dog’s memory.

It’s important to note that any kind of reward is important in animal training. Small bits of food are obviously appreciated well by animals. Gentle touch or soothing words can also be used as rewards. Your dog may not understand what you are saying outright but it can understand that you are talking to it.

Do you want to use a clicker for the first time? Here are the initial steps to begin conditioning your dog to respond to a clicker:

1. Sit in your living room with a small container of small treats nearby. Do not allow your dog to access the treats and no matter how much it begs, do not give it any until specific conditions are met.

2. Place a single treat on your right hand and close it so that you dog will not see or have access to it. Hold your new clicker in your left hand. Click once and give your dog the treat immediately. Do not delay! If you can give the treat a second after the click, do so.

3. Ignore your dog for a few minutes and act as if nothing happened. Do not stare at the dog; don’t talk to it and just act normal. When you are ready, get a treat again and press the clicker. Just repeat what you did in step 2.

4. Repeat the click-and-give pattern but make sure that the intervals are different. For example, the next treat may be given after 3 minutes, then 4 minutes, then 6 minutes and so on. Make it as random as possible and do not delay with the treat to seal the behavior.

5. You know you have succeeded with the initial conditioning process when your dog turns to you or approaches you when it hears a click.


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