Clicker training was introduced to me in December of 2001. Prior to that I trained
with positive methods, however, they were still based on "making" the dog obey a command when it
had no idea what you were wanting. This is very confusing for the dog and frustrating to the owner
when success is minimal at best. The commands had to be "drilled" into the dog by repeating them
over and over until the dog Got it! It also required a lot of knowledge of how to speak to your
dog with authority and being the Alpha in the pack. The human as "Top dog" in the dog's mind is still
essential for complete harmony within the human/dog relationship. With the Clicker method of training,
a person can still train their dog to do an endless number of behaviors using only positive methods
of conditioning. The dogs actually want to participate in the training session and when the dog
starts to "Throw" behaviors at you, the real fun begins! The dog and owner are both hooked.
There are several rules you need to follow for the "magic" to happen when clicker training.
1) Your dog needs to be hungry when you train. Train with something yummy.
2) Give small pieces to your dog as a reward. A good rule of thumb is; if the dog has to chew it, it's too big. The size of an eraser tip on a pencil is perfect (unless you have a St Bernard!). When you train at home, you can break up the pieces of food ahead of time and put them in a small bowl out of the dog's reach.
3) Train in a quiet area free of distractions at first. Later you will train in distracting situations, but to start with choose a small room (the bathroom is good) or in your yard, with no other animals in sight. Have a leash on your dog outside.
4) The most important rule in clicker training: When you Click you have to Treat! (Even if you clicked for the wrong behavior, always treat).
5) The first thing you will do is teach the dog to associate the click with the treat. Think of a cat that comes running when it hears a can opener, a dog that barks at the doorbell or horses that hear a feed sack rattle. They come a running! When we condition our dogs to understand that the sound of the click means a treat is coming, and then the real training begins!
6) Don't give any commands at first. This is totally opposite from traditional methods! With Clicker Training, you wait until the behavior is established before you put a cue word to it (Come or Sit, etc.). When you are CERTAIN that the dog's rump will be landing on the ground, then you say "Sit" just before it gets there. In no time at all, the dog understands!!
7) Only train one behavior at a time. After the cue-word is learned, then you can move on to another one. Sometimes it only takes 5 minutes! Really!!!
8) Train several times a day. You only need to spend 5-10 minutes per session for the dog to learn. Stop when the dog starts to look uninterested.
9) When the dog tries extra hard offering a behavior, give him a "Jackpot" of treats! This is also a great way to end a session.
10) Be patient and great things will come!
11) If you don't work with the dog, he won't learn.
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