Clicker training is the fastest way to create a shared language with your dog. This technique can speed up the training time ten fold in dogs and is also one of the only ways to treat fearful or hypersensitive dogs.
Dogs don’t know what you want them to do, so you have to mark their behaviour. A clicker marks the exact behaviour that you want your dog to do. Think of the clicker like a camera, where the photo you take when you click is exactly what you are rewarding and therefore helps to create a shared language between you and your dog.
The clicker becomes a positive switch that moves your dog into a learning state – a happy, relaxed, focused state perfect for learning (called the parasympathetic state).
Grab yourself a clicker and follow the instructions below (you receive a free one if you purchase the Dog Zen online programme).
CALM AND QUIET
It’s important that your dog is in a calm and focused state, especially starting out, so minimise the stimulants or distractions around you.
Ensure you have your clicker and a pouch of food ready before you start.
your dog first to burn off excess energy.
Put your dog on a LEAD and train in a contained space.
Have a clear plan on what behaviour you want to train (e.g. the “sit” command)
LURE your dog into the behaviour you want (e.g. for the “sit” command – with food in your hand, turn your hand like you are turning a key, moving your hand up and over their head. Your dog should sit as they go back with their nose following the food).
Click immediately when your dog’s bottom hits the ground – timing is critical. Always follow up with a food reward.
REPEAT until the dog consistently sits on command. Remember, a click is always a promise of a reward.
TEACH ALL THE BASICS AND SET FOUNDATIONS
Continue with other behaviours. The dog thereby learns to learn, the earlier the better. Try sit, down, wait, stay, heel, come, no! Or leave it, quiet, off or on your Mat! Once you have all these consolidate them by proofing.
PROOFING is getting the behaviour consistent in more distracting environments – slowly move practice into more demanding environments using consistent process above.
FADE the clicker – start using the clicker intermittently when asking for the behaviour.
- Timing on the clicker is critical – click as soon as they exhibit the behaviour you want.
- Make sure that if you use the clicker, you always give a food reward – it’s a promise!
- Start in a quiet distraction – free environment.