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Clicker Training – The Bottom Line

The Bottom Line

Positive reinforcement or clicker training can be used to teach a wide variety of behaviors. Besides simple and advanced obedience, and correcting problem behaviors, you can also use it for housebreaking, obedience competition, agility training, search and rescue techniques, hunting, public manners, grooming behavior and dealing with phobias, like thunder or loud noises.

As you’ve seen, clicker training is easy to learn, though there are professional trainers and classes available if you’d like a bit more support. You can find them by calling trainers in your local area, checking with your veterinarian or inquiring at a local pet store that offers lessons, and asking about clicker training. You can also find a lot of specific and in-depth lessons for training particular behaviors, both in books and on the internet. Check out your local bookstore, or use a good search engine to search for information on both clicker training and operant conditioning.

One thing to keep in mind, especially in the beginning, is to use no correction beyond, perhaps, the word "Wrong" as explained above. Remember that your dog is not being bad or disobeying when he doesn’t do as you ask. He just doesn’t know what you want – yet. If you say "Sit," and your dog doesn’t sit, he is not being disobedient. Try looking at it instead as that he has just missed an opportunity to receive reinforcement, and think about ways to give him that opportunity.

  • Don’t let your dog or yourself get frustrated. If the dog simply isn’t getting it, lower your standards and build up from there or change pace and work on something less frustrating.
  • Give the command once and only once.
  • Don’t be afraid to train the behavior and then give it a name.
  • Only reinforce the behaviors that you want.

Remember that you and your dog are seeing this whole process from different viewpoints. From yours, you are teaching your dog to come when called, to sit when told, to do or not do what you want. But from his viewpoint, he’s finding ways to make you give him a treat. Clicker training is and should be a lot of fun for both you and your dog. For him, it’s an exciting game; for you an opportunity to stresslessly teach your dog to be the loving, obedient companion you’ve always wanted. Take your time, keep sessions short, don’t correct, keep it light, be consistent and strive to educate yourself as you go. Do these things, and you will be amazed at how far both you and your dog will progress, using the effective techniques of clicker dog training.

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