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Clicker Training Your Dog

 by jaime on 07 Nov 2014 |
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Clicker training is an effective way to train your dog. Essentially, clicker training is a science-based way to communicate with your dog. Around since the 1960s, clicker training tells your dog when they've done something correct and is the method favoured by dog trainers. 

The clicker is used to reward behaviour. People start out using treats to motivate their dogs, but eventually, the click should become the 'treat'. Clicker training is based on a positive reinforcement reward system and promotes your dog's willingness to please you. 

What's great about clicker training is that it's incredibly effective because you're able to reward your dog at the exact moment they do something correct, meaning positve associations and achievements happen quicker!

Clicker training promotes dogs to work harder, as they want to please you and it also eliminates the need to implicate force or punishment on your dog (however this is never a good thing to do).

To start with, it's recommended you also use treats to provide further incentive for your dog, but eventually you should be able to wean them off the treats and only use the clicker.

Reasons why using a clicker is better than treats are:
  • Too many treats lead to obesity.
  • Treats can distract dogs from what they are actually trying to learn.
  • Too many treats can lead to stubbornness where your dog will only perform a task when a treat is produced!
Tips for successful clicker training

1. Before you introduce your dog to the clicker, practice alone getting the clicker timing correct. The last thing you want to do is click at the wrong time and confuse your dog. As a rule, clicking whilst your dog is doing the right thing, rather than afterwards is better.

2. Don't worry if your dog becomes startled initially - they will soon become used to the noise.

3. Start your training somewhere your dog feels comfortable and relaxed.

4. To get them viewing the clicker as something positive, click once and then give a treat. Repeat this a few times so your dog learns that the click will lead to a reward.

5. To reduce the amount of food your dog eats, put cut up treats into smaller pieces, or in fact, start training sessions right before meal time, and distribute your dog's meal into small chunks - that way they won't be over eating.

6. If you are teaching a complicated trick, break it down into smaller components and reward them each time they do something correct. And if they do any part of the trick your trying to teach, even incidentally, reward them! This is known as shaping the behaviour.

7. As mentioned, never punish mistakes or bad behaviour, in fact, don't show any emotion during these times.

8. Keep practice sessions short - no more than 15 minutes is adequate.

9. If your dog isn't making progress, it might not be your dog but you clicking at the wrong time.

10. If you notice your dog's becoming frustrated, try adding some games or revert to practicing tricks they already know well.

11. Only ever click once at a time.

12. Always end training sessions on a positive note.

13. When big achievements have been accomplished you can choose to give a large reward (or lots of little ones) to emphasize how well they've done.

14. And always, stay calm and positive. Remember, your dog can be very receptive to your emotions.

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