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CLICKER TRAINING TIPS
article I originally wrote for inclusion in the Primitive and
Aboriginal Dog Society newsletter, but the information applies to all
The following information is intended as an
introduction only. For more
detailed information, please refer to the list of recommended websites,
books and videos at the end.
JUST WHAT IS CLICKER TRAINING?
This form of training is particularly suited for independent, or
primitive/aboriginal type dogs because, in general, this dog "type"
does not take well to being "forced" to do anything. They will
"reluctant" to perform accuratly or develop an aversion to
Many times after a leash/choke collar correction the dog simply quits
To me this means that the training sessions are not "fun" or
"motivational" for the dog. Training that is not "fun" or
produces dogs that either do not perform well "known" behaviors or do
perform them with a "distain" that is obvious to all observers.
course there are exceptions to every rule, but this is what I
have experienced when dealing with Rottweilers, Shiba Inu and Basenjis.
Clicker" training (particularly the basic obedience or "trick"
behaviors) is especially easy even for children. Actually this
more easily learned by children than adults becuse many adults have all
those preconditioned experiences of what dog training is "supposed" to
look like! The following is a brief introduction to clicker
Questions are welcome and may be directed to me via email.
CLICKER TRAINING TIPS
Just what is clicker training?
Clicker training is a type of operant conditioning. This is the
type of training used on dolphins and those dancing and piano playing
chickens, because you cannot train them using leashes or physical
punishments. Clicker training is unlike any other method of
you have ever seen. It is a "hands off", "no force" positive
reinforcement type of training. As a matter of fact, most
accomplished without using a collar or leash! One of the primary
advantages of clicker training is that it is very clear and easy to
understand for the dog. The box clicker makes a quick click that
you easily and quickly identify what part of the offered behavior you
are rewarding. A comparison would be that a clicker takes a
of exactly what part of the behavior you liked, whereas praise is more
like taping a few seconds of behavior with a video camera. Using
for example; the click "photographs" the exact moment your dog's rear
hits the ground . So you now have a crisp photo of your dog with
on the ground. In contrast your prasie "video" having several
tape, shows the dog's butt on the ground, him leaping after a fly,
licking his nose and scratching his ear. Now which one would give
clear idea of just what was being rewarded? Dogs WILL learn with
methods, however the clicker method is faster and clearer to the dog.
1) Q-My dog is too food oriented, I could not possibly do this.
A-Though food is used for rewards, the "food crazed" dog is able to
concentrate on his task because the click defines the good behavior
first and then the food treat is given several seconds later-not
2) Q-My dog always moves after the click.
A-The click defines the END of the behavior, so once you've clicked the
dog IS free to move
3) Q-My dog is too shy to train. She cringes at the slightest
A-Timid animals are likely to become more lively and animated
because they quickly learn the the click means "good things are
Some noise shy dogs need you to click the clicker inside a pocket at
first to dampen the sound.
4) Q-What if I mess up?
A- It is VERY difficult to mess up your dog with clicker
training. A timing mistake on your part may set you back a
day or two in contrast to a correction error in traditional training
that might set you back a month or more!
5) Q-Can any age dog be clicker trained?
A-Puppies especially, adapt readily to clicker training. Older
dogs with some training already may
proceed very slowly at first until they realize that you actually WANT
them to think and act for themselves! It is facinating to watch
use it's mind and try to figure out what it is you want.
6) Q-I've always heard that kids cannot train dogs because they are not
A-Even children can easily train dogs with clicke training as there is
no "man handling" involved
7)Q-My friend uses a clicker to call his dogs, is this wrong?
A-YES! The click tells the dog he did good and not WHAT to do.
8)Q-For great performances do I click several times?
A- NO. One click is all you need. You can give "jackpots" (extra
food) for superior performance
9)Q-Whay don't we use commands at first? This is hard!!
A- With clicker
training we teach the dog the behavior first, then when the behavior is
perfect we name it. This way "sit" means a nice straight, fast
not a slow, sloppy sit . Not giving a command at first is the
thing for people who have trained dogs before-myself included!
10)Q- Gosh! I don't want to have to have a clicker and treats with me
forever! And you can't take them in the obedience ring!
A- A clicker and
treats are teaching tools only! Just like the choke collar and
traditional training. Once the behavior is learned properly,
works just as well. Just as with traditional training, the well
PROPERLY trained dog will respond correctly on or off lead and whether
or not you have a clicker and treats
How to begin
1) treats. Pick a soft or semi soft treat (cooked chicken, turkey
hotdogs or string cheese for example) and cut it up very small.
dogs will work for their regular dry food, but will not work in a
strange surrounding or keep at a difficult task if the treat is not
2)The first thing you must do is associate the click with a
and treat the dog five to ten times. If at the end of this
dog startles upon hearing the click and looks for a treat great!
you may need to work on this for a couple of days five to ten times per
session. The important thing to remember is to click, PAUSE a few
seconds, then give the treat-never simultaneously
3) Next try to get a simple trick. Show your dog the treat and
nearby. Wait for him to do SOMETHING (sit, down, lift a paw,
when he does something click & treat. Then wait for him to do
Do not give any commands and don't be waiting for a perfect
Just click & treat a good facsimile. After a few repetitions
should be beginning to understand that the behavior leads to click
treat. DO NOT be stingy with your clicks. Most beginners do
not click &
treat often enough and the dog loses interest. As the dog learns
behavior you can fine tune it by waiting for a slightly better version
before clicking. Do not try to progress too quickly or the dog
become frustrated and quit. Once you've gotten to the point where
be willing to bet $5. that the dog will perform the behavior
is time to name it. As the dog begins the behavior say the
click & treat as the dog completes the behavior. For example
as the dog
shifts it's weight in preparation to lift his paw say "wave", dog lifts
his paw, you click & treat. It will take about 50
rrepetitions for the
command to be accuratly connected to the behavior. Remember-do
the behavior until the dog is performing it accuratly and regularly!
4) Once the dog knows the game, you can introduce a no reward marker
such as "sorry" or "try again". This is given when the dog
wrong behavior or a sloppy version of a well known behavior. This
given in a NEUTRAL tone of voice and is NOT a correction! It
means "sorry! that's not it , try again". If you find yourself
your no reward marker a lot, then the dog does not understand what you
are asking him. At this point you should back up a few steps and
dog succeed at a previous level for a few days and then progress in
Using the clicker for behaviors trained using a different method.
There are two approaches. The first is used providing you like
performance of the behavior. You simply say the command and click
treat for correct performance. After several repetitions you can
withhold the click for less than perfect responses. The second is
if you are having problems with an established behavior; such as
fearfulness, sloppy performance etc. Lure the behavior with a
(using NO command) and click & treat for any facsimile (close )
behavior . After three to five repetitions stand back and see if
will offer you a semblance without a lure. If so, click &
treat and wait
for another. If the dog fails to offer the behavior lure and
treat several more times and give it up for that session. Next
lure three to five times, then wait for the dog to offer the behavior
before. If the dog is very inhibited this may take several
REMEMBER, at first you are looking for a facsimile not the finished
product. Once the dog is offering the behavior you can attemt to
fine tune it. Only change one thing at a time. For example,
do not go
for both faster AND straighter sits in the same session. Once the
behavior is up to par, give it a name. IF this was a very
behavior before clicker training be sure to give it a NEW name!
unpleasant connections are made.
The author's training website and bio
Working Class Canine
Pryor Clicker Gear Store
Unity, NH 03743
click the howling puppy to email us!
Send questions and comments to: Diane Richardson
Last updated 3/6/12
© Copyright 2012 Diane Richardson, All Rights Reserved