There are many different ways to train your dog. Clicker training is a safe and effective method that uses a small tool that makes a clicking sound when pressed. The clicker is best used to reinforce behaviors. Here's how to clicker train your dog:
- Understand the purpose of the clicker. The clicking noise is used as praise for the dog's actions. The benefit is that unlike giving verbal praise, it can be completed while the dog is still doing the action. It is important to click while the dog is doing the action, not after he has stopped. Many dogs can learn to associate the clicking noise with the behavior much faster than they can learn to associate verbal praise with the action. Words can express different emotions depending on how they are spoken, but the sound of the click never changes.
- Start using the clicker during training sessions. These sessions should be short, only about 5 minutes each. Dogs will learn more over several short sessions than over one long session. First, give the dog the command you are working on. Once the dog does the action, click the clicker, and give the dog a treat. Eventually the dog will associate the click with the treat. Click just once each time; do not increase the frequency of clicks to show enthusiasm.
- Use the clicker for other good behaviors. When you see your dog doing a good behavior without a command, use a click. This will teach the dog that it is a good behavior to repeat. However, don't click it randomly. Your dog could get used to the sound, and won't learn to associate it with rewards.
- Reinforcing the praise with treats. When you're first using the clicker, reinforce the good behavior with a treat. Though the click must happen during the behavior, the treat should happen once it is done.
- Use the clicker without treats, and then stop using the clicker. Once your dog has learned the meaning of the clicker, it is no longer necessary to use it in conjunction with treats. Your dog will have learned that the click itself means that his behavior is good. Eventually, you'll want to stop using the clicker altogether, using only the verbal commands. Otherwise, your dog may learn to only listen to people who have a clicker.
If you want your dog to be able to understand your commands, the clicker is one of the fastest ways to accomplish this. Your dog will easily be able to associate the clicker noise with the good behavior and the treat. With time, your dog will learn to do the behavior without either of these. This tool is especially helpful if your dog seems to ignore your commands. It can even be heard from far away, making it easy to get your dog to behave correctly in environments such as the park.