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A guide to clicker training for dogs

Dogs learn well throughout their entire lives, and most are eager, enthusiastic and want to please their owners. There are different ways of training your dog, and clicker training is one such method. Find out more about this training method in this article.

What it is

Put simply, clicker training centres around a small device with a push button, which gives off a double click when pressed. This click is backed up with a reward of some kind, and becomes a signal to the dog that its behaviour is good. The click always means the same thing: it is consistent and unemotional. Most importantly, it is not affected by the dog owner's mood. Even if you try to sound enthusiastic when you are having a bad day, the dog can still sense that something isn't quite right.

Discovery

Clicker training was used in the 1950s when training marine mammals, and wasn't used for dogs until much later. The principles of clicker training actually work with all animals, and were eventually recognised as an accessible way of pet training in the home. Karen Pryor was the first person to make this possible, by developing the small hand-held clicker used nowadays.

Rewards

The most effective reward to use for a dog is food. Even though a pet dog is used to being fed regularly, it does not stop its acting instinctively around food. Choose something tasty and fairly strong-smelling (so that the dog knows that you have it) which can be cut into small pieces and eaten quickly. Save your dog's favourite food for occasions when the best results are needed, for example at a competition. The dog must not snatch the food, it must wait to be given the food, and it is important to adjust the dog's diet accordingly in order to accommodate the extra food that it is receiving.

Getting started

Clicker training is something that works throughout the day, and not just in short periods of time devoted solely to training. Good behaviour is marked by a click, and followed rapidly by a reward of food. This must happen in quick succession so that the dog associates the good behaviour with the click and reward. A piece of advice
Be careful not to click near the dog's ears as it is quite a loud noise, and unpleasant for the dog if it is too close. Clicker training is something which works very well when built up gradually, and many trainers offer classes in order to help dog owners to train their pets in this way.

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