Basic Training

Using a Clicker to Teach Your Dog Tricks

You’ve already mastered the basics, now it’s time to train your dog fun & exciting new tricks! One of the most effective way to teach tricks is with a clicker.

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People have used clicker training to train everything from killer whales to cats, and it works just as well on dogs! If you’ve ever seen a dog perform tricks, like playing dead, begging, putting their toys away, or retrieving specific items, they’ve most likely been taught using clicker training. Especially great for teaching tricks, a clicker makes it easy to capture specific behaviors, reward those behaviors, and eventually transform them into fun and exciting dog tricks.

Harnessing the teaching power of positive reinforcement, clicker training allows you to communicate to your dog by “marking” a desired behavior at the exact moment your dog does it, then immediately rewarding the behavior, increasing the likelihood that your dog will do it again.

Any behavior from blinking, to sneezing, to rolling over, begging, and more can be marked and put on cue!

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Clicker training does have a bit of a learning curve, however. For beginners, getting the timing just right can be challenging. For example, if you’re trying to teach your dog to blink on cue, you’ll need to use your clicker at the exact moment your dog blinks naturally. Clicking too early or too late will not mark the blink. To train more complex tricks, use a clicker to mark individual behaviors, then string them all together to form a bigger, more impressive series of behaviors.

To begin clicker training your dog, you’ll need a few important supplies. A clicker, of course, training treats, and a treat pouch will be invaluable in training your dog. It’s also a great idea to pick up a couple of clicker training books, like Getting Started! Clicker Training For Dogs or 101 Dog Tricks that provide simple step-by-step instructions for using a clicker properly and training unique and fun new tricks.

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There are dozens of varieties of clickers and choosing the best one for you comes down to personal preference. Some clickers include wrist bands so they’re always within easy reach for capturing your dog’s natural behaviors. Some can be attached to a leash for use during walks. And others emit different click sounds which can be useful in multi-dog households.

Because clicker training requires immediate positive reinforcement with a food reward, a treat pouch clipped to your waist will ensure you’ve always got treats within reach for a quick reward. When purchasing a treat pouch, consider how simple it is to access treats. You want to be able to give your dog a treat immediately after clicking, without fumbling in a pocket or purse. You’ll also want to choose a pouch that is easily cleaned.

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Finally, you’ll want to choose treats to use as rewards for your furriest pupil. Training treats are a great option because they’re small and packed with flavor. Because you’ll be giving lots of treats during your training sessions, choose a treat that’s low in calories so your pup doesn’t pack on the pounds while he’s learning.

Remember, as with any type of dog training, clicker training should be as fun and rewarding for your dog as it is for you. Training is an important responsibility of all pet parents, not just for training good behavior, but for their health and safety as well. For more information about properly training your dog, check out this article, The 10 Commandments of Dog Training.


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