Training your puppy is best achieved through rewarding good behaviour and ignoring unwanted behaviour.
Clicker training involves using a small clicker device that produces a distinct sound. With this technique dogs are trained to associate the sound of a click with a food reward. When they consistently make this association then the actual training for specific behaviours can begin.
The essential difference between clicker training and other reward-based training is that the animal is told exactly which behaviour earned it a reward. This is communicated with a distinct and unique sound, a click, which is given at exactly the same moment as the desired behaviour occurs. The reward is then given after the click.
The click is a useful tool for training because, unlike a human voice, it is a unique sound that does not vary and is not heard by the dog in other situations. It can also be produced instantly at the exact moment a desired behaviour occurs, letting the dog know exactly what he did to get the reward. Even very quick or subtle behaviours can be clicked and therefore trained.
Remember the clicker is not a remote control to tell the dog to do something – it is a cue to signal that he has done the right thing.
The first stage of clicker training is to teach your dog to associate the sound of the click with a reward.
- Take a handful of small treats (kibble from his daily allowance is ideal).
- Make a click with the clicker and give your dog a treat after the sound.
- If your dog is not food motivated try giving a different reward after each click such as throwing a toy.
- Repeat this several times.
Your dog should quickly learn to associate the sound of the clicker with receiving a treat. You will know when he has made the association when his ears prick up and he starts to look for the treat after hearing the sound of the clicker.
Once your dog consistently associates the clicker’s sound with a reward you can start training for specific behaviours. There are two approaches to doing this:
The first is to allow your dog to do what he wants while you watch him and give a click, followed by a reward, on the exact moment he performs the desired behaviour on his own. This is an effective way of training but can require plenty of patience while you wait for him to perform the desired behaviour.
The second method is to lure your dog into performing the desired behaviour. For example, if you want to teach your dog to sit take a small treat, let your dog see it and slowly move the treat in your hand over your dog’s head. As he looks up to follow the treat he will naturally put himself into a sitting position. Click your dog as soon as he is sitting and give him the treat.
It is really important to keep sessions short so that your dog enjoys the training and does not become tired or bored. Repeat this for several short sessions. Also it’s best to only train for one behaviour at a time or your dog may just become confused!