Clicker Training Your Puppy
May 4, 2012 in Dog Training
In my first year of college, I took an astronomy class where the teacher would chuck candy at the head of anybody who got the answer right during his morning pop quiz. The questions varied in difficulty from, “Which star is closest to the Earth?” to “What is the chemical composition of the atmosphere of Venus?”
It was an awesome class, with an awesome teacher, and if you weren’t the kind of person to go for candy, there was an extra-credit slip wrapped around each piece. I wasn’t a big science buff, but I miraculously got every question right whenever there were Dots in his candy bag.
My much loved and long remembered astronomy teacher used positive reinforcement to get us to succeed in his class, and it worked. It was by far the most effective teaching method I’ve ever experienced.
Clicker training is very much the same, except it uses a clicker to precisely mark which behavior is being rewarded. You can teach your dog anything with clicker training. but in order to start, your dog has to associate the sound with the reward.
Teaching your dog to respond to the sound is super easy. All you need is fifteen or so treats, small enough to be eaten quickly by your dog. (My trainer recommends booger-sized treats, but in the beginning phases of training when I’m only working with a dog for 90 seconds at a time, I just want the treat devoured quickly so I can offer another one.)
How to Clicker Train Your Puppy
Take your dog to a small area free of distractions. Hold your clicker in one hand, and a treat in the other. Click the clicker, and then quickly give your dog the treat. Let him eat it. As soon as it is swallowed, repeat the process until all fifteen treats are gone. End the session.
I would suggest doing this twice a day, for a week. It may sound like over-kill, but you’re not just getting him to mentally figure out the treat comes with the click. You’re activating Pavlov’s Response.
Important: Do not ask your dog to do anything before clicking for the first week (All 14 sessions.) You want your dog to associate the click with the treat, not performing an action with the treat.
Once your dog has been exposed to click = treat for the necessary period, you can begin teaching your dog to perform a behavior in order to get the treat!
Curious to see what it looks like? Sandy Pawz has never been exposed to a clicker before. Watch her first session here.