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5 Easy Ways To Get Started With Clicker Training Your Dog

By Tom Niess

In the past, dog training mainly involved using a choke chain to drag your dog around to teach him to mind. Fortunately, after years of using the operant conditioning principles to train marine mammals, the clicker training method of training a dog has emerged. This method uses positive reinforcement like treats, along with a clicker to mark the behavior. Pet owners are quickly discovering that they can train their dogs, horses, and cats, while building better relationships with them.

The theory is really very simple: When a behavior marker is associated with a reward, the dog begins to realize that good things happen after they hear a marker (a simple “YES!” or a click from a clicker). With just a little bit of practice, you will be able to click precisely when the desired behavior is achieved and your dog will continue to repeat the behavior he was rewarded for.

Example: When your dog’s behind touches the floor, you c/t (click and treat) to teach the “sit” command.

Getting Started

1.) This may seem obvious, but we’ll mention it anyway: in order for your training efforts to be effective you must first identify what your dog finds rewarding. For most dogs, that will be food; for a few others, it might be a game of fetch, access to a favorite toy (make it extra special by letting him play with it ONLY during training), or a belly rub.

When using food rewards, they should have a “high value”. Use things like hot dog, chicken, or cheese. Try a few different food items to discover what really makes him salivate!

2.) “Charging” the clicker

This is an important step in this new training method. Without it, you won’t be successful. It’s critical that your dog learn to associate the click with a reward.

Start your train in a quiet, distraction free room. Have a bowl of tasty treats handy. Make sure the chosen treats are cut into small pieces so no chewing is necessary. Click and immediately give your dog a treat. Make sure you reach for the yummy treat after you’ve clicked. Otherwise, you dog might associate the treat with the movement. Repeat this step 5-6 times and then take a break. Make sure the break is brief. Next, you’ll c/t as you move around the room. Do this 5-10 times and take another quick break. Now, let your dog walk freely around the room and click. If he turns to you for a treat as soon as he hears the click, you’re on your way. He’s starting to catch on. Repeat this step a few more times and take a break until later in the day.

Later in the day, find another location for the click and treat training. When he begins to look at you every time you click, you’ll be ready to move on to the real training.

Keep all training sessions short, especially with puppies. Short and frequent is better than long and few. If the dog loses interest, quit the session, and try a more yummy treat the next time. C/t only one behavior per session.

The following three methods can be used concurrently to achieve different behaviors.

3.) Luring

This is probably the easiest for the basic behaviors like sit and down. To teach a sit, hold a yummy treat in front of the dog’s nose, and slowly raise your hand up and over his head. His eyes and nose will want to follow the treat, meaning he’ll have to lower his rump. Click as soon as he sits and give him the treat. Repeat about five times, then show him the treat without raising your hand. If he sits, jackpot!! That means giving him a whole bunch of treats at once for doing really well!

4.) Shaping

In order to successfully shape a behavior you’ll have to break it down into a series of movements first. For example, if you want to shape a left turn, start out with a c/t when your dog looks to the left, then takes one step, two steps, and so on. This does time some time and plenty of effort, but once your dog understands, the behavior quickly becomes solid.

5.) Capturing

This may be the hardest and requires your vigilance and preparedness. Does your dog have a cute pose? Wait till he does it, then immediately c/t. If you’ve used clicker training for a while, he’ll be wondering what earned him the click and start offering behaviors. Be patient! C/t ONLY that cute pose you’re trying to capture. If he walks away, just end the session. Be ready next time. He’ll get it eventually!

What’s next

During initial training, you need to remain quiet so as not to confuse the dog. Only after he knows the behavior do you add a cue (word or hand signal). Say “sit” as soon as the dog starts to lower his rump, then click and treat when he actually sits. Repeat a few times, then say the word before he starts to sit. Be patient. If you initially used luring to teach the sit, he already knows your hand movement as a cue, so you could use that (without a treat in the hand) instead.

Want even more fun? Try target training! The target can be things like your hand, a target stick, or a piece of paper on the floor. Targeting means teaching the dog to touch the object (your target) with the nose or paw. Most dogs will quickly learn to nose the palm of your hand. Catch his interest by rubbing your palm with a bit of chicken or hot dog. Avoid moving your hand toward him. Once he targets your hand reliably, move it right, left, high, low, against an object you want him to touch, etc. The target stick works similarly and can be used to teach loose leash walking, for example.

Clicker training is fun for both you and your dog. Before long, the two of you will be pros and you’ll be able to quickly teach your dog all kinds of tricks.

For more information about dog training Visit Peak K9 Training at: Dallas Dog Training. They provide professional dog training in Dallas and the surrounding area.

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Article Citation
MLA Style Citation:
Niess, Tom "5 Easy Ways To Get Started With Clicker Training Your Dog." 5 Easy Ways To Get Started With Clicker Training Your Dog. 7 Oct. 2010. 29 Dec 2014 <>.

APA Style Citation:
Niess, T (2010, October 7). 5 Easy Ways To Get Started With Clicker Training Your Dog. Retrieved December 29, 2014, from

Chicago Style Citation:
Niess, Tom "5 Easy Ways To Get Started With Clicker Training Your Dog"

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