1. Charge up the clicker by pairing a click and a treat.

Don’t ask for any specific behaviors at first, just click, treat, click, treat, click, treat… as fast as possible. Do this about 20 times. Simply be sure your dog isn’t doing anything you don’t like when you click.

2. Don’t click too close to your dog’s ear!

It hurts, a lot. If your dog seems a little worried about the sound of the click keep the clicker in your pocket or behind your back. If your dog still seems worried try to find a soft clicker (they vary a lot in sharpness and volume). Some people recommend putting some masking tape over the metal part of the clicker to soften the sound. You can also use a ball point pen or a baby food jar lid for an extremely soft click.

3. Pair the clicker with toys and games in the same way you charged it up with treats.

Click and play for a very short period, then repeat. It really helps add variety to your reinforcers by pairing the clicker with all the things your dog loves.

4. Always follow the click with a reinforcer. This needs to be a 1 to 1 relationship.

Clicking without offering a reinforcer lowers the value of the click as a signal that good things are coming. This makes the meaning of the click inconsistent.

5. Use the click as a behavioral marker.

The purpose of using the clicker is that you can mark the ‘exact’ moment your dog performs a behavior you like. Believe it or not, the clicker is much more precise than the human voice. Plus, people tend to chatter at the dog rather than use a single, short, distinctive word.

6. Only click once for each desired behavior.

Because the sound of the click is a precise behavioral marker, multiple clicks will be confusing to your dog.

7. Practice your timing.

Your training is only effective when you are exact in your behavioral mark. Most people click much too late. Practice your clicker timing by teaching silly tricks and playing shaping games such as ‘101 things to do with a box’.

8. Split, don’t lump.

Build the behaviors you want to teach in a step-by-step manner. Break down each behavior into the smallest possible parts and teach each of those separately. Expecting too much will lead to failure.


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