So, I’ve just started experimenting with the clicker. I am doing some behavior shaping with Kali and Nanu and thought I would try it out. So far they seem to be really responding to it!
Clicker training is a method used to mark a desired behavior, an alternative to a verbal marker like “YES.” Many trainers use the clicker, especially if teaching a dog agility exercises or other activities that require a quick response. It has been said that because the clicker is a quicker sound than a verbal cue, that it is more effective when training. I believe that this is true, however I also think a verbal cue is just fine when teaching the most basic commands such as sit and down.
The first step to clicker training is to amp up the clicker! You want your dog to know that sound and know that as soon as he hears it, he gets a reward. For the first few days you will focus on getting him to know the sound and respond to it immediately.
Introduction to Clicker Exercise
- Start off in an area where your dog will be completely focused on you and the treats, I use a high value treat for this exercise, whatever is your dog’s favorite.
- You will do this 3 times in a row with a small break between each session. Get 20ish pieces of food in your hand, and within about half a second (this needs to happen fast) click and treat, between each click and treat leave about one second.
- Do that until the pieces of food are done, wait a minute or two and start again!
- Take a longer break after the 3 sessions are finished, a couple hours, and do it again!
I would do this 2-3 times per day for about 3 days or whenever you see a consistent response from your dog. Remember only to click for the exact behavior you want and right after it happens or else your dog will become confused and not totally understand what you are asking. If you miss a click, don’t try to make it up a bit late, just start again.
You can also get a few clickers, they are fairly inexpensive, and put them all over the house. Then whenever your dog offers you a good behavior you can click and treat!
Once this step is complete, you are ready to start training behaviors with the clicker! Make sure to click as soon as your dog does the desired behavior and treat. As time goes on you can start leaving a longer break between clicking and treating and then eventually take the treats away altogether!
Remember that whenever you are doing a lot of training and treating with your dog, you need to adjust his food level, you do not want your dog gaining any extra weight! My dog’s favorite treats are hot dogs and cheese, which I like to limit in their diet. I put their regular everyday kibble in a ziploc, cut up the (low fat) cheese and hot dogs, mix it in and keep it in the fridge. That way, the flavors of the cheese and hotdogs mixes into their kibble so it is like a special treat when really it is just their everyday food.
Interested in learning more? Karen Pryor is an author and clicker expert, you can find her books on the subject in your local bookstore or online!
Have any questions? Do you use a clicker? Are you a fan or not? Let me know in the comments below!