Proper Clicker Training Means Using Perfect Timing
With clicker training, timing is everything. You must capture the exact moment your dog is doing something right. Also start thinking in terms of stage-by-stage training. Let’s say I want to teach my dog to make a left circle. I sit with my dog and click when my dog takes one step to the left. That’s stage one. Then I hold out my click for two steps, then three, then a full circle.
Training this way definitely takes longer than pulling my dog in a circle, but once my dog figures out the sequence, he’s doing a circle with far more zest and enthusiasm than if I tugged him around and around.
The second secret of clicker training: Don’t attach a spoken command to behavior until your dog has figured out what is making the clicker work. To explain, think of the behavior Sit. Each time your dog sits, click and reward.
After your dog is sitting, quickly start saying “Good, Sit” when feeding your dog his reward. Next say it simultaneous to the time your dog is sitting. Next say “Sit” before a reward is offered and click good behavior. Yes! Soon you’ll be able to say “Sit” away from clicker training exercises, and your dog will be spot on.
Here’s an easy one, teaching your dog to lick your hand on cue. Spread a dab of peanut butter on your hand; offer it to your dog. Click the second your dog licks you, then quickly offer his favorite reward. Timing is everything with the clicker, as your dog will know the sound soon after you introduce him to it.
Click the very moment your dog does what you want. Keep your clicker and treats with you and click each time your dog offers a kiss. Once it becomes apparent that your dog has got the message, add the cue word “Kisses.”
No clicks go unrewarded. If you click, you must reward. One click, one reward. Treats should be small and easy to swallow so that your dog can wolf them down and not fill up. Don’t treat your dog when he’s not having lessons or getting a reward won’t seem as exciting.
You can use the clicker to reinforce each step of your dog’s trick progression. Here are just a few more examples of how to reinforce everyday behaviors – basic stuff your dog probably already knows but exercises to help you understand how the clicker works.
Housebreaking: When your dog eliminates in the right area, click and reward. After your dog associates the sequence, say “Get Busy!” When he’s eliminating, click the instant he finishes, treat, and praise.
Jumping: When your dog jumps on you, look away. Click, treat, and pet your dog once all four paws are on the ground. “Four on the Floor” can be commanded once the sequence is understood.
Chewing: Anytime your dog is chewing an appropriate object, click, treat, and praise warmly. Put the words “Bone” or “Toy” on the behavior once the sequence is understood.