Created on: November 17, 2009 Last Updated: May 19, 2011
One of the most enjoyable parts of training puppies is seeing the joy that they get from positive feedback. When they hear the bag of treats rustle, they start to leap into the air and yip with excitement. Clicker training can give your dog similar feedback, once you teach it to link the sound with other positive forms of communication. Once you get your dog accustomed to it, the clicker will help you instill such commands as "Sit" and "Stay" in your dog's memory.
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First, pick out a and some dog treats. Clickers are available online, at pet supply stores and some major retailers and, as of 2011, are available for as little as $2. The treats should be ones that your dog likes, and they should be small enough to fit in your hand, and for your dog to eat in one bite.
Next, ask your dog to do something simple, like asking it to come to you. This should be a command that your dog can already follow successfully. This will make it easier for you to condition your dog to the clicker training.
Now, take one of the treats in your hand, and make a fist around it, keeping it out of sight. Put the clicker in your other hand. Extend your fist toward the dog so that it can smell the treat. Your dog may start licking your fist or trying to get inside it. If nipping or biting occurs, draw your hand back quickly. This will tell the dog not to bite at your hand. Then, give the simple command that you want to teach (Sit, for example), and extend the fist again slowly, repeating this process until the dog sits.
As soon as the dog sits, click the clicker. The clicking must happen at the moment that the dog does what you want, so that it will learn to associate the clicking sound with positive feedback. Then, give the dog the treat right after the click.
It is important to repeat this process every day, for 10-15 minutes two or three times a day, until it becomes routine for your dog. Once he becomes used to it, practice pausing for a brief period between the click and giving the treat. This way, the dog will understand that a treat is coming, even if it doesn't come right away. This trust will make clicker training more effective for you and for your dog.
If you do this process correctly, spending time each day working with your dog, clicker training will take anywhere from two to four weeks to take effect. The time spent will pay dividends, as you will end up with a happy, obedient best friend.
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