Tips for successful clicker training

Once you have a good idea of how clicker training works, keep the following tips in mind to perfect your technique and take your dog’s training to the next level.

Every click is a treat

Once you’ve charged the clicker, never click without giving your dog a reward. Clicker training depends on your dog trusting that a reward will come when he hears the marker. If you’re inconsistent, your dog won’t make an effort to remember the behavior that prompted the click.

Make the reward worth the effort

Try rewarding your dog based on how well he has performed a particular behavior. If you’ve been working extra hard to shape the down command and he finally gets it, give him a few extra treats for his effort. Then take a break to let his newfound knowledge sink in.

Timing is crucial

The more precise you are in clicking an offered behavior, the quicker your dog will learn. Click too soon or too late and he won’t know the exact behavior you want from him. If you have trouble with an obedience command or trick, have someone sit in on a training session to see if you’re timing is the issue.

The clicker is only used to mark a behavior

Never use your clicker to get your dog’s attention or make him offer a behavior. Think of the clicker as a camera. It’s only job is to take a snapshot of the precise moment you want your dog to remember.

The “Two-in-a-Row” Rule

Do your best to keep your dog from making a mistake more than twice in a row. You want to maintain his focus and enthusiasm for training. If he messes up more than twice, change the exercise to help him out. Lure him into position, remove some of the distractions, or shape a smaller part of the full behavior.

Have a plan and keep notes

The easiest way to ensure success with clicker training is to have a goal for your sessions and keep notes. Record how well your dog does with a particular exercise, what he responds to best, what he learned quickly and what took more effort. A training journal can give you insight into how your dog thinks, which can make training him that much easier.

Wean your dog off the clicker and treats slowly

Begin to phase out the click and treat for an exercise once your dog can perform with 100% accuracy. At that point, click and treat after a couple of repetitions or when he has held a position for a longer time. Also start to adapt exercises so there can be a real-world reward such as being let outside or greeting a guest. Never cut the click and treat out all at once. This will only confuse and frustrate your dog since he has learned to expect them for a particular behavior.

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