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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 to 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.  The first step is to just train your dog to do anything.  Whether it’s to just sit by your side, or a place stay, or whatever it may be, you should at least get a few days of practice to where you and your dog are pretty 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.  

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 source of the food,  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, and 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. 

If you do that, what happens with the dog is they learn “ oh, all these non-verbal forms of communication are important because when I do that, and I hear that click, a reward is soon to follow.” If you’re pretty good at that, maybe it’s time to get a clicker involved and you will see the process will begin to speed up more and more. 

Just one more thing I want to add is, what should your clicker be associated with?  The easiest thing is to click, then reach for the food out of your treat ouch 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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