AddThis Social Bookmark Button

A "dog blog" about all breeds and issues of importance to people who value the dogs in their lives, with a special emphasis on Search and Rescue dogs, in particular the training of my Newfoundland Dogs

Friday, January 20, 2006


NOTE: to find the famous "my dog is smarter than your honor student" bumper stickers...jog on over to Dogdaze Designs by clicking on the title!!

THE "BASICS" of clicker training

Clicker training basics: the whole key to clicker training is to get the dog to a stage in his training where you can quickly reinforce a behavior that he does in order to tell him that he is "doing something right". The clicker is a substitute for "good dog" and has more meaning because it is very specific to the dog. for example there are dozens of times every day and many situations where you use the words "good dog" (or at least there should be) but when you use a clicker you are working towards the end result of putting the dog into a "learning mode" and in the end he will understand, when you are "clicking" that he has performed a behavior which was correct and he will be rewarded.

Start clicker training with a pile of hot dog treats, beggin strips, cheerios, whatever you think will really turn the dog on. I have seen people use an open jar of cheese whiz and the the handle of a spoon for a scoop......whatever works to "turn your dog on". It may not be food but most of the time food is the most successful thing to use in beginner clicker training. Keep in mind that this is only for the BEGINNING stages of clicker training and in the end is often not at all necessary.

Put your treats or food in a place that is easily accessible, not a pocket that is hard to get into. Find a location that is fairly free of distractions and with no other animals especially dogs, present... your kitchen or living room is fine. begin by clicking the clicker. quickly give the dog a treat. click the clicker again. give another treat. continue for at least five minutes. during this process vary the method in which you give the treat. throw it to the dog. offer it with one hand, then the other....move your body physically to a slightly different place, so that the dog is not sitting still in one spot while this is happening.

Soon the dog will be looking for a treat immediately after he hears the sound of the clicker. When you see that he is beginning to move toward you to receive a treat when he hears the are on the right track.

STOP clicking if the dog loses interest and start again later in the day.

Once you have a good interest going and the dog is actually LOOKING AND FOCUSING on the sound of the clicker.....stop clicking and just look at the dog, right in the eyes....he will look back at you like "huh???" "where's the treat??"

At that point you will immediately click when he performs a behavior for you..(that behavior may be one he already knows, such as sitting down and looking up at you) It is a good idea to have in your mind what he will most likely do, and be ready to click immediately when that behavior is performed. then give the treat.

don't worry if it is something he already knows how to do..

What he has done is unique and different for him. He has offered a behavior that he thinks may get him what he is looking for, the CLICK and the ensuing treat. You have not pushed, pulled, or jerked him into performing this behavior. You have also not TOLD him to do this behavior. He has offered this to you....It is like he is saying : "If I do this, will I get the treat??"

You will continue from this point on clicking him for that particular behavior and ignoring all other behaviors....only for a few minutes more, then end the session and put the clicker away for awhile....

Next time start with a few "click/treats" to get him into the learning mode, and then progress to clicking the dog for the behavior he first performed for you (such as sitting down) and THEN having the dog perform a different behavior for you....something perhaps that he does not already know, for example, backing up, or spinning around or pawing with one foot at your leg....anything. Remember you will STOP clicking and only click when he performs this different behavior. what you are doing is showing the dog that he is only going to be rewarded for CERTAIN behaviors....Remember that the way to get him to perform a behavior (at first, in the beginning stages of training) is to simply STOP clicking until he performs the behavior you are looking for. Don't shoot for something complicated. just a simple behavior. all you are doing right now at the beginning is training the dog to 'LEARN' and not really teaching a specific behavior.

that is the basics of the clicker training in a nutshell. Once your dog "connects" to the idea that if he offers certain behaviors, the clicker will tell him if it is the right behavior, and it will be rewarded with a treat..then you are set to go on to all sorts of training. More about this later.....