All about clicker training a puppy...

Clicker training a puppy was conceived in the 1940's by Keller and Marian Breland, but didn't become popular until the 1990's. Most dog training methods are biased towards a reward/correction model. The reward is used to induce the dog to carry out the desired action. The reward is usually a treat, and then praise.

Correction is used to stop the dog from carrying out undesired actions. You can correct your dog simply by using a harsher tone in your voice, checking the dog via the leash, by using your body language, or by squirting water via a water pistol.

Clicker training is different from the traditional puppy training methods. Rewards, specifically a treat, are directly linked to the sound of the click from this hand-held device. A click signals an instant treat. The click must be delivered at the moment that the required behaviour occurs. Required behaviour- one click- one instant treat.

To be effective as a training aid you must make sure that the clicker is only used to reward good behaviour. The puppy soon comes to associate a single click with an instant reward, so even if you make a mistake clicking- you must reward your puppy. Here are some tips to assist you with clicker training a puppy:

Bulldog puppy

  1. Begin by teaching your puppy to associate a single click with a treat. Repetition will eventually lead to success. Applied diligently, it shouldn't take too long.
  2. As with all dog training you'll need to be patient. It will take time for your puppy to understand that the desired behaviour, the click, and the treat, are all linked.
  3. Starting with 'Sit': Manoeuvre you puppy in to a sitting position, Click and treat. Repeat, until the puppy is sitting of its own free will, in the expectation of a treat.
  4. House training: Using the methods described in House Training a puppy, when your puppy relieves itself in the designated toilet area; click and treat.
  5. 'Down': Manoeuvre your puppy in to the down position. As soon as she's down; click and treat. Repeat until the lesson is learnt.
  6. 'Drop': Now and then your puppy is going to get hold of things that you don't want him to have, Teach your puppy to drop anything on cue by placing a toy in his mouth, hold out a treat, as soon as she drops the toy to get the treat, click and treat.
  7. Always use a command word with every desired behaviour e.g. 'Sit', with the sit action, 'Drop', with the drop action. Likewise when you give the treat use the word 'Treat' or an equivalent. Be consistent with everything that you do in your training sessions.

Clicker training your puppy- the downside.

The question is do you want to have to rely on a clicker for all of your puppy's training? Is her behaviour tied eternally to treats? What happens if you forget your clicker? Lose it? Will your dog still respond to you? The answer is probably not. You will have established, and reinforced a behaviour pattern, completely linked to clicking and rewarding.

Clicker training is ideal for house training. But, ultimately you want your dog to readily respond to your commands under any circumstances. A well-trained dog is one that, after you have trained her, realises that she has to do what you tell her. And clicker training doesn't really communicate that. So if you decide to use the clicker for very early puppy training, you're going to have to eventually wean your puppy off the clicker.

Take it gradually. Providing you always use a command word for every action when you use the clicker, it isn't too difficult to phase it out. Simply go over each behaviour that you used when clicker training your puppy. Use the command word, and slowly but surely, ease down on the clicking and treating, and introduce verbal praise. Eventually, you can phase out the clicker, and the treats, and your dog's responses will be controlled solely by the tone of your voice.

This is just one segment of our puppy-training guide.....

Dogs playing

So why not find out all about Teaching a puppy to Sit.
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