What is dog clicker training?
“Is an animal training method based on behavioral psychology that relies on marking desirable behavior and rewarding it.”
What is a clicker? Why is it different?
A clicker is different because…
Why use a clicker instead of food lure training?
Can you use clicker training at any age?
What are the benefits of clicker training?
- Clicker training is a highly rewarding method of training. This encourages your dog to try new things with the promise of a treat.
- Reward-based training sessions can last longer than non-reward-based sessions, which means you can teach your dog more and build her motivation to learn more.
- You can practice several repetitions of the same behavior without losing your dog’s interest in the activity.
- The clicking sound perfectly marks which behavior is being rewarded which makes your dog learn quicker.
- Being a positive training session, you will build a stronger bond with your dog.
- As a trainer and handler, your training methods will improve by increasing the positivity in your sessions.
- Your dog will focus on you more with a clicker because she is actively thinking about what behavior she performed that rewarded her with a click and a treat.
- You will build your dog’s confidence by teaching her how to be a well-behaved and rewarded dog.
- The sound of the clicker is unique to your dog. She doesn’t hear that distinct noise in other environments. Whereas, she hears your voice all the time. This means she is more likely to pay attention to the click sound as opposed to your voice giving commands.
What do I need to start clicker training my dog?
- Pouch of treats
- Yummy treats (cooked chicken or turkey, pieces of carrot, or kibble are healthy options)
- Your fur-baby
What does it mean to “charge a clicker”?
How to clicker train your dog?
Learn how to use the clicker.
- The key to using the clicker is making the noise at the exact moment that your dog performs the desired behavior.
- The sound of the click should always be followed immediately by a treat or other reward.
- The clicker is a signal that a reward is coming, rather than being the reward itself.
- Think of the clicker as a buzzer on a game show signaling that you just won the grand prize, but for your dog.
Introduce your dog to the clicker.
- You’ll probably need a handful of treats.
- Repeat the click-treat, click-treat, click-treat as many times as needed until your dog understands the concept of responding to the clicker.
- If your dog attempts to sniff at your hands and get a treat before the click, keep your hand closed and hide your hand in a pocket so she loses interest in searching.
Monitor your dog’s responses to the clicker.
Training your dog with a clicker
Choose a quiet room or other location with no distractions.
- Sit, down, stay, shake hands, etc.
- Or more complicated tricks like roll over, fetch, or seek.
- Once your dog is comfortable with clicker training, you can hold sessions in areas with distractions like a TV, people, or other animals.
Click when your dog is in the act of the desired behavior.
- The “catching” method only works when your dog already knows how to do the behavior, like lying down. It may not work so well for rolling over or fetching.
- Clicker training will reinforce in your dog’s mind that she’s doing something right, which will encourage her to repeat that desired behavior.
Use the clicker at each small step of the new behavior.
- By using the clicker and rewarding each step, you are providing her with continued positive reinforcement as she grasps the new behavior.
- Practicing each step may take some time before you can move on to the next step.
Use food as a lure.
- When your dog consistently responds to the food lure, remove the lure but still hold your hand in front of her nose. She’ll think you still have a treat. When she lies down (or performs the behavior) use the clicker and give a treat.
- Eventually, your dog will learn the behavior by following only your hand signals without a lure.
- The “lure” method is often quicker than the “shaping” or “catching” methods.
Use hand signals.
- Point to the ground or move your hand downward if you want her to lie down.
- Hold your hand out in front of your dog with your open palm facing up if you want her to shake her Paw.
Use verbal cues to accompany all hand signals.
- Keep verbal cues short. One word. Two at most. Sit. Down. Stay. Phrases or sentences are too long and your dog won’t understand them. “Be a good girl and lay down” is far too long.
- Be sure to give the verbal cue before your dog performs the behavior so she knows to listen for the cue before responding.
- Again, if you’re using the lure method, give the hand signal after the verbal cue, then wait for her to perform the behavior before clicking and treating.
Teaching your dog to “Sit” with a clicker
You have a couple options for teaching your dog to sit on command with a clicker.
“Sit” by capturing
“Sit” By Luring
How to teach a dog to play fetch using a clicker ?
- Start by finding one of their favorite toys.
- Play with the toy for a few moments to get your dog excited about it.
- Toss the toy a few feet away from you. If your dog moves toward it, click and treat. If he doesn’t move toward the toy, pick it up and shake it around to get his attention. When he moves toward it (while you’re holding it), click and treat.
- Repeat the toss-click-treat step until your dog consistently moves toward the toy. Then toss the toy a little further away. Repeat the click-treat when she moves towards it.
- Eventually, stop clicking and treating when she moves towards the toy. Only click and treat when she makes contact with the toy. Then stop clicking and treating unless she picks up the toy.
- Continue working in this manner until you have the dog retrieving the toy and bringing it to you. An excited, high-pitched voice is often encouraging.
- Return to step 3 and re-engage if your dog loses interest at any point.
Tips and rules for successful clicker training
- Always give the treat within 3 seconds of clicking.
- Click for the desired action. Click for each step until the entire action or position is complete.
- 1 click = 1 treat.
- Training sessions should be no more than 30 minutes per day. Less if your dog gets frustrated.
- When you start each training session, start a step or two back from where you ended the previous session.
- If teaching fetch with a clicker, don’t throw the toy so high that your dog would have to jump up to catch it. Knee injuries are common when dogs leap and land in this manner.
- Use soft toys such as plush or rubber that won’t damage teeth, gums, or the mouth. Sticks can puncture the tongue, throat, neck, or chest.
- Clicker training is not command-based so do not order her around. If she doesn’t perform the desired act, she isn’t disobeying, she just doesn’t understand yet.
- Carry a clicker at all times if you’re “capture” training.
- The clicker does not cue your dog to do something so you can’t use like a remote control.
Timing is key when clicker training a dog
Clicker training troubleshooting
“My dog doesn’t respond to new cues right away.”Stay patient and keep trying. Some behaviors are challenging and take time.
“My dog hears the click but doesn’t seem interested in repeating the action.”Make sure you’re using food as a lure.
“My dog doesn’t look for a treat until I’ve clicked 3 or 4 times.”Stop clicking so much. Only click once. Dogs can count, so if you click 3 or 4 times to get her to look for the treat, she’ll learn to count the clicks and respond accordingly. Click-treat. Click-treat. Click-treat. That’s the key.
“My dog isn’t interested in food lures.”Don’t feed your dog before a training session. Practice in the afternoon. She’ll be hungry and looking for tasty treats to fill her tummy.
“My dog doesn’t respond to hand cues.”Define them more clearly. For example, simply lowering your hand to the ground will not teach your dog to lay down. Use a treat and have her nose follow your hand to the ground. Then remove the treat. She’ll get the connection.
Clicker training mistakes to avoid
- Using multiple clicks for 1 treat.
- Waiting too long between clicks and treats.
- Clicking after your dog has performed the desired behavior.
- Waiting to click for the final behavior when you’ve only begun with a new cue.
- Attempting to teach a hand signal without a lure.
- Getting impatient when your dog doesn’t perform a behavior while using the “capture” method.
iClicker – the free dog training app
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