Mark Vette – Internationally renowned Animal Behaviourist, Educator, Author and TV personality

Clicker training 101: A beginner’s guide

Clicker training is the fastest way to develop a shared language with your dog. Not only can it considerably speed up regular training, it’s also one of only a few ways you can train fearful or hypersensitive dogs.

Dogs don’t understand what you want from them, so you have to mark their behaviour – that’s what the clicker does. We use the clicker to mark positive behaviours, so your dog can begin to understand when they are performing the right action.

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Grab a clicker and follow the instructions below to get started.

Exercise – take your dog for a nice long walk beforehand, to burn off any excess energy

Calm and quiet – minimise distractions to help your dog stay in a calm and focussed state.

Be prepared – have your clicker and food pouch ready, and put your dog on a lead in an enclosed space such as your living room.

Clear purpose -have a clear plan on what behaviours you want to train in this session, e.g. the ‘sit’ command.

Lure – prompt the behaviours you want. For example, when you want the ‘sit’ command, move food up and over the dog’s head – you’ll find they will lean back and sit down to follow the food.

Timing – click as soon as your dog does the desired behaviour, so for a sit command, click as soon as your dog’s bottom hits the ground. Timing this right is critical.

Food Reward – a click is a promise to your dog that they’ll get a food reward. So every time you click, offer a food reward.

Repeat – keep up the click and reward training until your dog is actioning your command on cue.

Basics – once one command is mastered, start teaching others such as wait, stay, come, down and no. Once you’ve got a few under your belt, you can consolidate them using proofing.

Proofing – this is about getting your dog to perform commands in more distracting environments. Slowly start using locations with more distractions using the above method.

Fade – begin to use the clicker intermittently as training progresses, until finally the commands are performed without it at all.

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