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Clicker Training for Dogs

Clicker training is positive reinforcement that helps train dogs.

Positive reinforcement is the best way to train dogs. That means that you reward the dog for doing what you want him to do rather than punish him for doing the wrong thing. Dogs want to please us; they just don't always understand what we want. The trick to good dog training is to get the dog to do something, any little thing, in the direction of what you ultimately want him to do and then let him know that he's on the right track.

Clicker training is a great way to use positive reinforcement in your dog training efforts. Here's what it is and why it works.

The Basics of Canine Clicker Training

Clicker training uses a sound to let a dog know when he is on the right track during training. The sound is usually the click made by a device called a clicker. As the trainer, you can click the device at the exact instant that the dog does what you want. Giving a treat or praise takes a fraction of an instant longer, and dogs do best when they are rewarded exactly at the moment when they are doing the right thing.

When you are first starting to use a clicker in your dog training, you will need to teach your dog what the sound means. The first thing to do is find a tasty treat that your dog loves. Then start your training. As you go, when your dog does the right thing, click, and then give a treat and praise. Always click first, and do it at the exact moment that he is doing something you want to reinforce.

For example, if you are working on teaching your dog to sit, you will start with getting his attention. Get him to look at you, then click and give a treat. Once he's doing that consistently, you will tell him to sit and show him what that is by bringing a treat in front of his nose and gradually moving it up toward the ceiling. As your dog's eyes follow the treat up, his rear end will go down. At the instant his rear end touches the ground, click and give him the treat.

Eventually, you will start using the clicker without giving a treat sometimes. Vary the frequency and timing of treats, so your dog responds to your commands every time, not knowing whether he'll get a treat or not. Always use the clicker, though, so that it becomes a consistent indication to your dog that he's doing well. Eventually, the click itself will be all the positive reinforcement your dog needs.

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