Dog Training Tips: Clicker training made simple.
For dog training, clicker training is a simple, effective and a science-based way to communicate with your dog. You can clicker train any kind of animal, of any age. Puppies love it, young dogs respond quicker, and there is some truth in the saying you can teach an old dog new tricks as even older dogs can be taught new tricks.
Here are some simple tips to get you started with dog training.
1. Buy a pack of clickers from Amazon, I have found the ones with a wrist band best as I always lose them, expect to pay less than £1 for a training clicker. Prepare your dog for dog training. I always introduce a young dog to a clicker when I am on my own with no distractions. Click and then Treat. Keep the treats small. I use tinned frankfurters from ASDA cut in small sections and only costs around a £1 a can – do not use the normal dog treats or a lump of kibble. I always found that a dog is more responsive if I dog train with treats before feeding the main meal.
2. Click the desired behaviour, (like taking a photo of the behaviour you want) not after it is completed. The timing of the click is crucial and really needs some practise to get this right. If you want your dog to sit, wait until he naturally sits, then click as soon as the dogs bottom is in the sit position. Don’t be dismayed if your dog stops the behaviour when it hears the click. The click ends the behaviour – the timing of the treat is not important. Click when your dog or other pet does something you like: the sit position is the easiest. Dog sits – click, I throw the treat away from the dog as I like to keep it moving, as the dog sits – I click and then throw the treat away so the dog has to stand and move from the sitting position. When he comes back I wait for the sit position and then click and throw the treat away. After ten repetitions the dog fully understands the click and sit position. Repeat click once, sit, click , throw treat, so the dog has to move from the sitting position. If you want to express special enthusiasm, increase the number of treats, not the number of clicks.
3. Keep dog training practice sessions short and have a bowl of fresh water, as in my experience a dog tends to get quite thirsty during clicker training. A lot more is learned in three sessions of five minutes each than in an hour of boring repetition. Results tend to be more dramatic by fitting 3 x 20-minute sessions rather than I x 60-minute session.
4. Fix bad behaviour by clicking good behaviour. For this example, we will use dog training a pup to wee outdoors. What I do with a young puppy is give it a lot of full-fat goats milk as I know it will want to wee after this. I let it out into the back garden, and when it wees, I click this behaviour. I then repeat this exercise, goats milk, outside, wees, click treat. In my experience, if you carry out this exercise for seven days you will have a house-trained pup. Using this principle, I then use a clicker for paws on the ground and not jumping up on guests. Instead of scolding for making noise, click for silence. Cure lead-pulling by clicking and treating those moments when the lead happens to go slack.
5. Whenever I see a new client for dog training, I explain to them that I will introduce their dog to a clicker and that by the end of the session the aim is to get their dog to ring a reception bell without saying a word. Breaking this process in very small steps, I click for voluntary (or accidental) movements such as turning in the direction of the bell, soon the dog has associated the bell with a click/treat and will start to walk towards the bell, I click/treat each movement in a very short space of time the dog will start pawing the bell click and treat the dog will usually lift its paw and start pushing down onto the bell. You may coax or lure the animal into a movement or position, but don’t push, pull, or hold it.
Let your dog discover how to do the behaviour on its own, no talking or any other distractions.
6. Don’t wait for the “whole picture” or the perfect behaviour. Click and treat for small movements in the right direction. Keep raising your goal in your dog training. As soon as you have a good response-when a dog, for example, is voluntarily lying down, coming toward you, or sitting repeatedly-start asking for more. So as an example: If I want a sit position, I start counting up to train whilst the dog is in this position before I click and treat, this is called shaping a behaviour.
7. When your dog has learned to do something for clicks, it will begin showing you the behaviour spontaneously, trying to get you to click. I almost always know when an owner has taught their dog a behaviour such as sit as their dog starts showing me these behaviours in order to get a treat. Now that we have a nice sit position it is time to introduce a cue such as a verbal commend or a hand signal. Start clicking for that behaviour if it happens during or after the cue. Start ignoring that behaviour when the cue wasn’t given.
8. Don’t talk to your dog when using a clicker before introducing the cue; clicker training is not command-based. If your dog does not respond to a cue, it is not disobeying; it just hasn’t learned the cue completely. Just go back a few steps and repeat the exercise. Try working in a quieter, less distracting place for a while. If you have more than one dog, separate them for dog training, and let them take turns. It really gets difficult trying to train two dogs at the same time with no or little experience.
9. Carry a clicker and “catch” desirable or cute behaviours like cocking the head, chasing the tail, or holding up one foot. You can click for many different behaviours, whenever you happen to notice them, without confusing your dog.
10. Clickers have no emotion so if you start getting frustrated a sound of the click is just that. However, if you start getting angry at the lack of progress, put the clicker away. Don’t mix scoldings, lead-jerking, and correction training with clicker training; you will lose the animal’s confidence in the clicker and perhaps in you.
11. If you are not making progress with a particular behaviour, you are probably clicking too late. Accurate timing is important. Get someone else to watch you, and perhaps to click for you, a few times.
Above all, have fun. Clicker dog training is a wonderful way to enrich your relationship with your pet dog. If you’d like more in depth information on clicker training and dog training, please get in touch.