The Clicker Is Your Friend, Learn How To Use It

Gemma | December 2nd, 2006
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Remember that a dog functions in the here and now. The next second, its mind will be onto something else. You need to let your dog know exactly when its right and exactly when its wrong. If your timing is off, you may inadvertently be training just what you don’t want your dog to do!

This is one of the perfect reasons why using a clicker is so valuable when it comes to training your puppy. In fact, it is the preferred method of training by most professional dog trainers. A clicker is a tiny box with a metal tongue that makes a distinct click sound when pressed. This sound marks whatever behavior the animal performed at the precise time of the click, relaying a non-verbal, Thats it!

A treat immediately follows the click, reinforcing the behavior and encouraging the animal to do it again. Trainers who prefer not using a clicker generally substitute a short marker word, such as a clear yes, in lieu of the click, with all other factors the same.

Compared to corrective, force-type methods, this positive, reward-based approach to training builds a better overall relationship between you and your dog, which ultimately works because the dog wants to, not because it’s forced to.

Though the majority of trainers still employ some corrections, most don’t use any until the dog thoroughly understands a command, and even then on a limited basis. Novice handlers are hesitant to correct their dog for fear they’ll do it wrong or hurt the animal. They feel comfortable with positive methods, though, and thus are more likely to stick with training.

Quick Tip: Play The Name Game

At some point it becomes obvious that your puppy knows its name. However, many dogs become somewhat oblivious to their moniker because owners say it too frequently and too casually. Limit how often you say your dog’s name, saving it for times when a reward is forthcoming, assuring a positive association between hearing it and alerting it.

Just as with other basic training, there are games that encourage your dog to look your way upon hearing its name. One similar to the come-and-go game used for recalls involves throwing a treat out, allowing your puppy to get it, then calling its name right away. The instant it looks at you, mark the behavior with a click or word, such as yes, and immediately throw another treat. Within days it will start to come to you when you just say its name.

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