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Clicker Training: The Fastest Way To Train Your Dog

Updated on December 5, 2016

What Does Your Dog Like?

Many dog trainers will tell you that the most reliable method of training is positive reinforcement. This is because it uses rewards to teach your dog a certain behavior, making him more likely to retain it in the long run. Clicker training allows this type of reinforcement to be more focused and effective.

There are two reasons dogs do anything: The action is enjoyable, or instinctual. Often times, instinctual behaviors are also enjoyable. For example, digging and barking are both actions that release endorphins in canines and they are very instinctual, more so for particular breeds. Your goal should be to find things your dog enjoys. Just think about the things he can’t get enough of. Is he constantly trying to get food? Does he obsess over a ball or other toy? Does your dog stay glued to your side or beg for petting and attention? Is there no other thing he enjoys more than a walk? You get the picture.

Once you have discovered what he loves, you now have the control. Don’t give it away for free! What’s the point of doing anything you’re asking for if your dog gets these rewards regardless? Rewards can be many, many things. Refrain from showering him with affection, leaving food out all the time (free feeding,) and doling out treats throughout the day for no reason are good examples. Think of these items as having monetary value to your dog. He can earn his wages by behaving in an acceptable way. You don’t want a spoiled brat on your hands.

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How To Signal A Correct Behavior

Next, you’ll show your dog how he can earn these rewards. The two of you need to come up with a signal that lets him know he’s done something right and will be rewarded. Finding your signal will allow an enormous amount of new communication between you and your dog. One of the easiest and most consistent is a clicker. You can buy these at major pet store chains and smaller ones as well. They make a clear and unmistakable pop/click noise. Other options include a noise you can produce yourself in a consistent manner. For deaf dogs, a flashlight works great. If choosing a word or phrase, the shorter the better. “Good job!” or a simple, enthusiastic “Yes!” will work perfectly here.

Now, you've decided on a signal, but you've still got to teach it to your dog. Whether you’re using a word, noise, clicker, or light you’re still using the same positive reinforcement behind the concept of clicker training. Show your dog the signal means something good. Since you aren’t giving away rewards for free anymore, the only time your dog should receive them is when he hears the signal. If it is meal time, click and put down his bowl. If you want to give him attention, click and pet. If you want to allow him a toy or chew, click and give it to him. There should be no longer than 1 or 2 seconds from the time you use your signal and the time he gets the reward. Dogs have a very short window of association. If it’s not immediate, he won’t understand you. Timing is important. Keep this up on a routine basis until your dog starts to expect the reward when he hears the signal. When he learns this, you've got yourself a valuable training tool.

So Much To Learn

Remember, the purpose of clicker training is to give your dog a way of knowing he’s done something right. After he knows a click means reward, make sure you’re only using it when he’s behaving in a way you want him to. You can click for sitting, click for calm behavior, laying down, not barking, and all manner of things you want him doing. You can “capture” these behaviors by catching him doing them on his own with a click and reward. Clicker training is that easy. There are all sorts of things you can teach your dog to do with positive reinforcement this way. You’ve gained a valuable tool in communicating effectively with your canine buddy. Look for other articles that explain specific behaviors.

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