What You Should and Should NOT Do With The Clicker


Introducing the clicker to your dog:

First you are going to want to do a trial run to make sure that your dog is not oversensitive to the clicker.  Remember the clicker is not a remote, so don’t point it at the dog and click!  If you have a sensitive dog, the dog is likely to run and hide if you do that.  Also do not click near the dog’s ears.  Their senses are much stronger than ours so it will seem much louder to them.  If your dog appears fearful of the clicker sound, you can either muffle the sound in your pocket, or they also sell a clicker that does produce a softer sound.  If your dog is still fearful of the clicker, we then will need to come up with another marker, such as a word or sound.

YOU SHOULD ALWAYS pair the clicker with food, remember the clicker is a teaching tool. Once your dog has learned the behavior you are after, you will then transition to a verbal marker and change your reinforcement schedule.

YOU SHOULD ALWAYS feed your dog even if you mistakenly clicked. It’s not their fault you made the mistake!  It is important to keep the ration of click to treat at 1:1.  If you occasionally have a bad click it will not undo the good behavior, however if you are consistently clicking at the wrong time, you will need to practice.  Take a tennis ball and bounce it on the floor, every time it hits the ground click.  Keep your eye on the ball!  It’s hard at first but you can get your timing down really quickly.

YOU SHOULD NOT be clicking and giving the treat at the same time. It is click then treat.  The dog learns the click means the treat is coming.  The click makes the dog focus on what they have just done. The treat should not be moving, visible, or otherwise distracting the dog until after the click. If you are fumbling with, reaching toward, or feeding your dog food as you are clicking, you are “blocking” the click – the dog is much more likely focusing on the food than on what he is doing to make the click go off.  Your treat hand should remain totally still until after you click.

YOU SHOULD work in short sessions.  I encourage people to work training into your daily routine.  Say you are making dinner, ask for the sit.  Brushing your teeth, ask for a down.  By training in short time frames, this helps keeps the dogs engaged with you and what you are doing.

YOU SHOULD always start and end your training session on a positive note.  Set the dog up for success not failure.  Once the dog is fluent in what you are asking, which is doing it properly 4 out of 5 times, it is time to set the standards higher.  We call it the four D’s.  Distance, duration, different environment, and different rewards.  We will go into this further down the line.

YOU SHOULD keep a journal.  If you have children ask them to be a part of it and keep all your training improvements and troubles written down.  Also write about the dogs mood for the day.  Were they tired, not feeling well, too excited, what was going on in the environment makes a large difference on how your dog responds to you and your training..

YOU SHOULD shape or capture the behavior before you name the cue.  We want to make sure the dog knows what we are looking for and can do the motion.  When the cue is added you will say the cue only once, and wait.

YOU SHOULD praise your dog when giving the treat.  Let the dog know you are excited and are happy with what they are doing.

YOU SHOULD not confuse your dog with cues that sound similar.

YOU SHOULD NOT click by the dogs ears or point it at the dog.

YOU SHOULD NOT use the clicker to get your dog’s attention. Remember the clicker signifies two things to a dog, this is the behavior I want, and here is your reward for that behavior. The clicker is not used as a tool to call your dog from the back yard.  Do not click and then yell come!  You would call your dog to come, and then click ONLY when they are coming towards you.  As soon as they get to you give them a treat.

YOU SHOULD NOT worry if you make a mistake.  It takes awhile to get coordinated to do the clicker.  Practice marking your spouses or kids behavior!  Have some fun.

YOU SHOULD have in your mind what you want to accomplish before trying to shape your dog’s behavior.  Determine the steps you will reward, and how long before you raise your criteria for your dog.

YOU SHOULD NOT allow your dog to rehearse making mistakes. If he makes two or more “mistakes” in a row, reevaluate your training plan. Have you raised your criteria too quickly? Is something about your cue confusing to the dog? Are you confusing the dog by not clicking at the right times?  Does he need a break?

YOU SHOULD NOT be a drill sergeant. Clicker training should be fun for both you and your dog.  You don’t want to create a boring training field, because your dog will quickly tune you out.

YOU SHOULD NEVER repeat cues! This goes for all dog training.  If you keep re-cueing the dog is just going to tune you out.

YOU SHOULD NOT expect your dog to be PhD immediately. The stronger a foundation you lay while building the behavior, the more solid the finished product will be.


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