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Clicker Training  

Clicker training is fun and easy. No aversive methods or corrections are used, so both the handler and the dog are having fun! It is scientifically proven that dogs can learn faster when clicker training is used. Unlike marker words which depend on the human voice (of which pitch and tone vary from person to person), the clicker is the same consistent sound every time. In addition to this, the clicker ONLY means “Yes Fido, you did what I wanted!!!”, whereas a marker word may be used in every day conversation, and have nothing to do with the dog.

The only rule to clicker training is that a reward follows EVERY TIME you click. When choosing food rewards think of the 3 S rules: Soft, Small and Stinky!

Common clicker training questions:
Q. When do I click?
A. The moment your dog does what you want. For example, if you would like your dog to sit, the moment his butt hits the ground into the sit position, you would click, then reward.

Q. If a click always means a reward; will I always need food to get my dog to do what I want?
A. No! Clicker training is great for teaching new behaviors or cues or for reinforcing old cues. Once your dog knows the cue, you can fade out the clicker and just mark the behavior with a word of choice. Once this is done, you can vary your rewards. (Sometimes 1, sometimes 5, sometimes none, etc...)

Q. I am having a difficult time with my timing. How can I improve this?
A. Practice without your dog. Grab a tennis ball and bounce it off the ground. The moment the ball hits the ground, practice clicking. This will help with your ability to catch the behavior at just the right moment.

Q. My dog seems to be afraid of the clicker, what should I do?
A. Some dogs may be apprehensive about new sounds or objects. First of all do not point the clicker at the dog, like it is a remote control! Instead, begin with the clicker in your pocket to muffle the sound. Or begin with a ball point pen, which gives a softer sounding click.

Getting started:
One easy way to get started is to have your dog on leash, treats hidden in an apron or a pocket away from the dog’s view, with a clicker in hand. Without using any words or commands, wait for the dog to make eye contact, then click and reward. It is that simple! You may add the cue (word, hand signal or both) when your dog is looking at you consistently. This warm up/ intro to clicker training teaches your dog:

  • It is beneficial to check in with you, increasing focus.
  • Offering good behaviors is rewarding, increasing the chance that the behavior will be offered again.
  • Training is FUN!

After you work on this exercise you may begin working on basic behaviors such as: sit, down, stay, loose leash walking, etc. The sky is the limit with clicker training. If you are interested in learning more about clicker training, Karen Pryor has a very informative website (http://www.clickertraining.com/) and books available.

© 2010 Amy Dengler. All Rights Reserved