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When Should You Start Using a Clicker?

Al's Dog Training Tips

When Should You Start Using a Clicker?

Many of you know I like using clickers.  I’ve used clickers for all of my dogs. I use this tool to help me communicate with my dogs, specifically when they do something right. One of the things I’ve learned about clickers over the years is that it’s a precision tool, and if you associate it properly but your fundamentals are still wrong, it may not be the best tool for you.  I want to walk you through what your steps should be if you’re thinking about using a clicker for your dog. 

Train To Do Anything

The first step is to train your dog to do anything.  Whether it’s to sit by your side or a place-stay, whatever it may be, you should at least get a few days of practice where you and your dog are fluid at doing that. Once you have that going, you can begin to introduce the clicker.  Be warned though, if your techniques are bad, the clicker will amplify your bad techniques.  

Basic Techniques

Let me go over some basic techniques for you.  When you use your leash, put a little bit of pressure on it. Get your dog to do what you want, then relax the leash.  I call that “pressure on, pressure off.”  Also, when you have food in your hand and you want the dog to do something, hide the food source. Get your dog to do what you want, then show them the food. It sounds simple, but sometimes we humans make mistakes there. The last thing is you should lead your dog on your left side. I always lead with my left leg first.  If you can put those leash cues, scent cues, and body cues together, then it’s not a bad idea to click. When those things are put together correctly, and your dog does what you want, use your clicker.

When that happens, the dog is learning all these non-verbal forms of communication. When they do that thing, they hear a click, and a reward is soon to follow. If you’re pretty good at that, maybe it’s time to get a clicker involved. You will see the process begin to speed up more and more. 


Just one more thing I want to add, what should your clicker be associated with?  The easiest thing is to click, reach for the food out of your treat pouch, and give it to your dog.  You can also click and then present a toy, like throwing a ball or having a tug toy to play with.  The general mistake in clicker training is that the food or toy is already visible or already in motion before the click has finished.  Just remember, you want to click before those things come out.  You will see your training really accelerate after that. 

Happy training! 

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