As a dog owner you know that training a puppy or rescue dog can be a maze of success and failure. It is often frustrating, and some dogs are stubborn when it comes to learning. The most effective training technique for free-spirited breeds is clicker training. This is essentially training with an aid. A small clicker held in the hand that gives your dog an auditory cue that they have done something right. Puppy clicker training is a great way to start positive reinforcement training with your dog.
Clicker training works particularly well with puppies, since they have a brain like a sponge for the first 6-8 months. Clicker training is the perfect way to start training with your puppy as it will set a solid foundation of basic behaviours and also teach your puppy to pay attention to you. This makes future training so much easier and also more enjoyable for both you and pup.
Step-by-Step Guide to Puppy Clicker Training
Here is a handy step-by-step guide to ensure you and your dog get the most out of any clicker training session.
- When your puppy does a desired behaviour, push and release the button of the clicker. It will emit a two-part click, getting the attention of your pup. Immediately give a treat and lots of praise. Keep the treats small but tasty. Chicken is a great option or healthy puppy treats made from natural ingredients.
- The timing of the click is important. Clicking during the behaviour may cause your pup to stop but he will learn to associate the click with the action. Clicking after the behaviour is finished is too late.
- Begin with something easy that your pet is likely to do on its own, such as sitting or following you.
- It is vital to be consistent with the number of clicks to avoid confusion. Just once is fine.
- Keep training sessions short. Five- or ten-minute sessions are perfect. Any longer and your dog may become mental tired and concentration will drop. Incorporate these short sessions into your daily routine and make them fun by including play as a extra reward.
- Using the clicker can fix unwanted behaviours in favour of desirable ones. For instance, clicking when your dog stops barking or, if he has his paws up on the kitchen counter, click when he puts his paws back on the floor.
- You do not need to wait for the entire behaviour to occur. Click and treat for small movements as long as they form part of the behaviour you want. For recall training, begin be clicking when your dog takes a few steps your way. Your dog will know he is doing right when he hears the click, because his previous training has taught him that the click means a reward. You can then slowly build the behaviour until it is exactly how you want it.
- Due to your dog learning that clicks are good, he may start doing certain behaviours spontaneously. At this point you can start introducing a cue such as a word or a hand signal. Start clicking for that behaviour if it happens during or right after the cue.
- It will take a little time for the cue to be associated with the behaviour, the same way your dog learned what the clicker meant. Keep going with it!
- Carry a clicker on walks as the added distraction of a new environment will be good training for your puppy.
- The most important part of clicker training is to have fun. Dogs learn best when they are engaged and enjoying themselves.
Which Clicker should I Buy for Puppy Clicker Training?
When it comes to choosing the best clicker for you there are several things that you should consider. One clicker may suit you or your dog, but it may not be suitable for someone else. The following things are the most important to consider.
The quality and durability of a clicker is dependant on the materials used. A good quality clicker will have either a full body of stainless steel or strong plastic with a metal clicker. The reason for stainless steel is that it is rust resistant. The button of the clicker should be made of plastic or firm rubber for comfort.
Size and Design
Since you will be using a clicker regularly, the design is important. It should be designed in a way that makes it easy to carry and it should also be comfortable in your hand. The size should also be small enough to hold in one hand. Most clicker brands include a lanyard or wrist strap for safety. This portability makes for easy access during a walk or training session and ensures the clicker cannot be dropped or lost.
If you have a noise-sensitive dog, the sound produced can alter the effectiveness of the clicker training. For a nervous dog, choose a clicker that produces a softer click. Easily distracted dogs tend to work better with clickers that produce a sharp loud click. There are clickers on the market that have volume control and work well in a variety of environments.
Accessories and Warranty
Before deciding on a clicker, be sure to check whether it is supplied with accessories. In this case, accessories are things like a training guide, how-to-use manual or free bag of treats. Clickers that come with a guide or instructions included are the better options as it provides you with an extra bit of information and the booklets are usually travel sized so you can take them on walks with you.
If you are looking for a full guide I recommend Clicker Training for Dogs by Karen Pryor.