Clicker Training and Positive Reinforcement

There are really five things you need to know about clicker training your puppy or dog.

  • Woman playing with and training puppy to shake handsIt’s fun.
  • It’s effective.
  • It’s easy.
  • It can be done with dogs of any age.
  • It works through positive reinforcement.

This technique is based on the use of a small, hand-held clicker that signals your support of good behavior in your dog or puppy.

Clicker training works well teaching simple manners, basic or advanced obedience, and even fancy tricks.

You can show support for behavior you want or curb unwanted behavior in a positive, reward-oriented way.

Clicker basics

The most important thing to get right is the timing of the click. The click is immediately followed by a reward/treat and is designed to let your dog know he’s done something to make you happy.

At first, you will be clicking followed by an immediate treat for any desirable behavior you see – such as when your puppy sits, lays down, comes to you when you call his or her name, etc.

dog clicker trainingTo get the click right, you have to do it during the required behavior, not after it’s completed.

So if you’re teaching the sit command, click and treat the second your dog’s butt touches the floor, not when he’s in a complete sit.

This makes it clear to your dog that the behavior he or she is engaging at that very moment is what you’re rewarding. Dogs learn by association and they need to make the correct association from the very beginning.

As you get more experienced, you’ll be able to use a vocal cue like “sit” or “down”, and then by clicking and rewarding you’ll solidify those cause-and-effect associations.

You’ll be surprised how quickly your dog understands what’s happening and how positive this ongoing training and bonding can be.

Clicker training your dog

There are a few simple steps to follow to make sure you get started off on the right paw.

If puppies learn the wrong thing first time around, or build a bad habit, it can be challenging to convince them to change.

But it can be done! As long as you do it right.

Load the clicker

To start your puppy clicker training right, you need to load the clicker. Do it by clicking and treating a dozen times in quick succession without asking your pup for anything. You’re just aiming to get your dog to understand click = treat. End the session after a dozen or so click-and-treats.

Working on basic obedience

You can teach your puppy all the useful commands like:

  • Sit.
  • Down.
  • Stay.
  • Leave it.
  • Off.
  • Come.

The process is the same for each one.

With sitting, for example, begin by trying to catch your pup in the act of sitting down and capture this behavior by clicking and treating through the act.

You can attempt to capture the behavior 3 times in a session, and you can do, say, up to 4 sessions a day.

Once you’ve practiced like this for a while, and you’re sure your little one understands the connection between sitting and the click and treat, you can begin to use verbal cues.

dog clicker trainingGet his or her attention and say “sit” in a firm but friendly way. As soon as their little butt begins to touch the floor, click and treat and say “good sit”.

Use the same puppy clicker training process for any command. Remember though that puppies have very short attention spans, so keep the sessions short and always end on a positive note, after a success.

Never use the clicker for anything except your puppy clicker training sessions; using it as a toy or in any other situation will only confuse him/her.

Eventually (maybe after several weeks, or longer) you’ll find your dog is very consistent and reliable in obeying your instructions. At that point you can start to treat intermittently rather than every time. You’ll still need to click every time though!

By only treating every second or third time you help prevent too much food focus.

Fun and rewarding dog training

Training your puppy should be a fun and rewarding experience for both of you, and puppy clicker training makes this possible. It’s a great way to help build a strong and trusting relationship between you and your puppy.

We can show you how it’s done. Stop by our storefront for a chat and demonstration today