Clickers are a great way to train your dog. They are a reward based method that help to engage your dog and aim to make the training process easier and much faster than other methods. By following these steps you should be able to train your dog to follow simple commands and even do some tricks as well, once the practical part has been established. The first step is to get your dog to connect that after the clicker sounds a treat will follow. But you also only want to ensure that you are clicking favorable behaviour. So for the first few sessions, find a nice, quiet place to start your training and off you go!
Getting a dog’s attention
If your dog typically does not pay you much attention, this is a great way to start off the training. So have some treats ready, and immediately when your dog looks at you, click that behaviour and offer a treat. Allow the dog to eat the treat and then when he looks away, wait for him to look back at you, click quickly again and offer another treat. Continue this behaviour for around 5 to 10 treats. Now decide what verbal command you want to use with this, if you want to be able to stop him from bothering other people, or to wait whilst you are doing something else, once your dog has mastered stopping what he is doing for paying your attention, add the verbal ‘stop’ or ‘wait’ and you can start to reduce the click and treat until you are only using the verbal command.
Hold a treat in front of your dog and call your dog’s name out, making sure they have seen the treat. As your dog comes towards you, take a few steps backwards. When your dog reaches you, click and give up the treat. Repeat but steadily increase the amount of distance between you and your dog. Once you are satisfied that your dog is behaving in the desired manner, you can start to add the verbal command ‘come’ and reduce the treats until you are only using the verbal command.
Hold a treat over your dog’s head so that their nose follows it and their bottom naturally goes down on the floor. As their bottom touches the floor click and give them the treat. Repeat several times. As above, once the desired behaviour has been achieved, add the command sit as their bottom touches the floor and start to reduce the treats until you are only using the verbal command. Note, if if your dog jumps up when you hold the treat you are holding it too high and if they walk backwards you are holding it it too far back.
Your dog should be in the ‘sit’ position. With a treat in your hand, allow your dog to sniff it and then lower it to the floor, inbetween their front paws; your dog should follow it with their nose and their body should naturally slide down into a down position. As soon as they are down click this and give them the treat. Repeat as necessary, bearing in mind that this could take several sessions for the dog to get it right. Once they are displaying the correct behaviour, start reducing the treats and give them a command, making sure that if you are using the word ‘down’ to get them off furniture, that you give a different command for this action, such as ‘drop’ or ‘fall’.
Walk to heel on a lead
Pop your dog on a loose lead and walk a few steps forward. If your dog walks forward with you nicely then click and reward with a treat. If the dog pulls in front then turn in the opposite direction and as your dog catches up with you, wait until they are walking beside you and click and reward with a treat. Repeat as above but now slowly increase the number of steps you have to take before clicking and rewarding. Once you are getting a favorable result, take your dog to a park or area where there are lots of distractions and practise some more. Once again, as soon as your dog is behaving in the desired way, start replacing the treats with your command of ‘heel’. By the way, if you find that by merely getting the dog’s lead out or placing it on them they become over excited, try getting it out and placing it on them throughout the day without actually taking them out for a walk. This will eventually de-sensitize them. Be advised that teaching a dog to walk to heel can take some time and can prove to be very frustrating so patience is a must! If you find yourself becoming stressed it is best to end the session, rather than carry on.
Clicker Do’s & Don’t
Using a clicker is fairly simple but as with all things in life, there are some do’s and don’t.
- If you happen to click your dog by mistake you must reward them.
- Don’t use the clicker as a way of getting your dog’s attention.
- Multiple clicking will only confuse your dog so only click once.
- Don’t try to teach more than one behaviour in one session.
- Keep training fun and brief.
- If you are using lots of treats then reduce your dog’s normal meals accordingly.
You can buy clickers for dogs at Pets at Home, The Clicker Company, Amazon, and Pet Supermarket.