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Clicker Training Guidelines
- 1. Only click once then reward. A reward would usually be a small piece of food that your dog enjoys. Vary the rewards. If you are introducing a new behaviour, or a behaviour that has been learned in one place and you are now introducing it another, make sure the rewards are ‘high-grade’ (something your dog really enjoys). When it is a learned behaviour you can decrease the level (perhaps to dried dog food) and gradually fade out the rewards by only clicking and treating for the best/quickest responses. You can also reward with a game.
- 2. The clicker never lies. If you click you must always reward. If you click even at the wrong time, your dog still gets its reward.
- 3. Keep rewards hidden so the dog can learn that it is his behaviour that can make the reward appear.
- 4. Remember that the clicker marks the behaviour that you want. If you ask your dog to sit you would ‘click’ the moment his bottom touches the floor. However, sometimes your dog does not understand exactly what you want, so you can click for an approximation of the final behaviour. We call this shaping.
- 5. Shaping - visualise the whole behaviour, then click and treat any small movements in the right direction.
- 6. Good timing is everything, if things aren’t working out maybe you are clicking too late or too early?
- 7. Ideally teach your puppy/dog in a quiet environment at first – perhaps at home - then gradually add distractions – the garden, out on a walk etc.
- 8. When the behaviour is being offered reliably then start to add the cue word - just before the dog does the action.
- 9. Keep sessions short 5-10 minutes only (even less for a very young puppy), and remember to move around so the dog does not wrongly anticipate what you want.
- 10. The clicker is not a remote control – you do not need to point it at your dog.
- 11. Be careful not to click too close to your dog’s (or anyone else’s) ears. If you are working on ‘handling’ or ‘grooming’ and the clicker would be close to your dog’s ears then use a mark word (see below).
- 12. We suggest that you also have a click or marker word. This word can replace the click when working with your dog, particularly useful if you find you do not have the clicker with you. This word must mean the same thing as a click ie it is ALWAYS followed by a reward. The word should be something short – one syllable only – ‘Yes’, ‘Good’, or similar work well. But not good girl/good boy as you are probably using that phrase a lot during the day and it is not always followed by a reward.
Remember to have fun and practise lots!