What exactly is clicker training?
Have you recently researched online in the search for some dog training tips and have noticed so many dog owners both new and old mention the words “Clicker Training”…. but suddenly you ask yourself “What exactly is this technique that everyone is going crazy about”?
Clicker training is simply a form of reward based training, each time you click the clicker device this will let your dog know they have done the right thing after a command. Your dog will quickly learn to associate this clicking noise with “A job well done” with each click being followed by a tasty Fresco reward. Over time you can start reducing the frequency of the reward while maintaining the clicking noise as your praise.
The main reason for using both treats and a clicker device alongside each other is so your dog is aware of each time they have followed a command correctly and not simply being given a daily treat. They will quickly resemble that each time they hear a “click” a tasty Fresco treat is on its way and that they have achieved satisfaction from you for following that particular command correctly. This simple “click” marks a sign of good behaviour and it will not confuse them for when you simply want to give then a treat or chew.
How do I use a clicker for training?
With any type of training, timing is key. From the minute your hold the clicker device in your hand it is always good to know how to use it properly, this is to avoid any misuse that will confuse your dog and can at times make the clicker training confusing for them going forward , after all there is nothing worse than mixed signals.
Step 1: Teaching the click…
Firstly your need to let your dog know that each time they hear a “click” that this is you praising them for completing a command correctly. For the first few days though you will simply not command any tasks but instead “Click the device and reward immediately”. It is essential that you do not delay when giving them the reward as they need to resemble that a click noising will be followed by a treat. Repeat this routine for only 1 minute and attempt this a few times per day at various times, your goal is for your dog to start acknowledging that once they hear the “click” that a reward is due.
Training days can be long with many treats being given, it is always noted to remember to cut down their daily food intake when you are preforming training days as these treats add towards their daily feeding amounts.
Note: If they do something bad while you are starting with this simple “Click & Reward” be sure not to click and reward! You want them to understand that only good behaviour will action a “Click” followed by a tasty Fresco reward”.
Step 2: First command, bum to floor…
Yay, finally after a few days your dog now associates the clicking noise with a reward being given. It is now time to step it up a notch, you can now start with some basic training commands. We recommend starting off with a command such as “Sit”. They may already be familiar with this command but now you can use your clicker device to start the command and follow this with a reward. They will quickly learn that this kind of behaviour is what will grant them the praise and reward from you.
My dog has already obeys this command: Start off with saying “Sit” as normal, just before their bottom touches the floor simply “click” your device and follow this with a reward. Don’t forget to give the treat as quickly as possible after the clicking noise. This will soon teach them which commands & behaviour are acceptable and for which rewards will be given.
My dog has not yet been taught this command? Don’t worry we have a simple trick which will help you get that fluffy behind firmly on the floor.
Simply hold their favourite Fresco treat or toy in your hand and slowly start moving the item to above the top of their head and directly to behind them while commanding the word “sit”, similar to an up and over technique. This will naturally make your dog sit back will they keep their eye on the prize. This technique is called “luring”, it may take a few attempts but persistence is key, keep repeating the motion until you achieve a bottom to floor touching result with simply voicing the “sit” command. As soon as they do achieve the position you should immediately “Click & Reward”. Keep practicing this move a few times per day until you no longer have to lure them into position.
Step 3: Let’s expand the commands…
Now you have mastered the first few steps and your dog has learned that a “Click” will be followed with a tasty reward for following a command, you can now start expanding the commands for your dog to follow.
Similar to yourself learning a new technique it is always best to only teach 1 or 2 commands at any one time until the command has been properly taught and your dog is obeying without any luring, this is to avoid an overload of information and too minimise any confusion between the commands going forward.
We have put together a small list of commands you can teach:
“Look” - This is a commonly used technique especially when you are out enjoying your afternoon walk. For instance if another dog is approaching and you need to distract dog’s attention for another dog in the park you can command “Look”. While maintaining direct eye contact with your dog while holding their reward, wait until the other dog passes then proceed with a “Click & Reward” followed by a well done and a head rub! Not all dog’s will require this though it is also advised to remember that your dog may not be the only dog learning, the other dog passing me not be well-behaved or fully trained and it is owner etiquette to keep them apart until you are sure that both dogs are happy to interact with others and safe to do so, this rule also applies to small children and adults. Both dogs and humans can get easily excited when around each other but both parties may not share the same reaction, it is best to wait until you are sure both are happy in each other’s company.
“Stay” - This is a great verbal command to give once you have mastered “sit”. It can also work perfectly alongside the “look” command too. You will soon learn all the commands you are teaching will soon start working together and all your hard work will start paying off. To achieve the best “stay” result be sure to wait 1 second before giving the reward while keeping eye contact with your dog, you can start increasing this to longer periods of time as your progress with the ultimate goal being yourself walking away while they stay in position until you command a “come” for them to walk over to you.
If they do not stay in position, simply do not give the reward but instead repeat the process all over again until the command is satisfactory and you will feel a reward should be given. This tactic may seem a little mean to start though consistency is key and you don’t want to ruin all the hard work you have achieved already with your “Click & Reward” training.
“Lie Down” – To achieve this command you first may have to lure your dog into position, very similar as you have already done with the “stay” position. Whilst in the “sit” position gently apply little pressure to their back on a downwards motion, as soon as they are in the lying position then it’s time to “Click & Reward”. With giving small breaks between, keep practicing this tactic with over time removing any assistance but instead changing this to a verbal command.
This is a common position you may see many dog owners preforming with their dog in training books and online videos. When you first start out with your clicker training these types of commands may seem a million miles away, but don’t worry within a few weeks your dog will quickly learn all the commands you are teaching.
Things to remember…
When you begin your clicker training it can be easy to forget the end goal, every dog will react different to training and some may take longer than others to learn but with simple persistence it will slowly start to take shape. All the small tasks you set will be the building blocks for more complicated commands in the months ahead, all in all they all play a vital part when training. Similar to when you start driving a car, the instructor doesn’t simply give you the keys and ask you to drive without any guidance. All the steps are broken down into smaller more manageable segments, this is the best way to learn for both humans and dogs alike.
If you are unsure on how to tackle a certain command or confused to what steps to take then why not reach out to a local dog trainer and join their class. There are many registered dog trainers throughout the UK with weekly classes with some even offering one to one tuition depending on which levels or training they offer. You can search your local trainers by clicking this helpful link “Dog Trainers”. This is also a great way to pick their brains with the many questions you may have while meeting new dog owners too whom may be in the same position as you!
Have you trained your dog to learn others commands or have you just set out on your journey? Let your fellow dog owners know any helpful tips or tricks you may have to make their training days that little bit easier and more enjoyable. Comment below with your experience or knowledge…..