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Is clicker training easy to follow?

Dog clicker training

(Q) What is clicker training? How does it differ from other training methods and is it easy to follow?

(A) Trainer and behaviourist Carolyn Menteith says: Clicker training is a reward-based method of training. It is a fun and easy way of teaching your dog everything from basic exercises to impressive tricks. It is a very simple way of communicating with your dog and giving him a precise signal to indicate that you like what he did and that it would be in his best interests to do it again.

A clicker is a small plastic box with a metal tongue inside that makes a distinctive ‘click’ when pressed. Every time your dog does something right he hears a click which means ‘well done, you will get a treat for doing that’. There is no way a dog can make a mistake in clicker training. The only punishment is that he doesn’t get a treat and must try again. Some people are put off by clicker training because they see it as bribery. But everyone needs paying for a job well done!

First you must make the link in your dog’s mind between the click and the reward. To begin to do this you need to sound the clicker once and immediately give your dog a treat (remember the clicker is not a TV remote control and doesn’t need to be fired at the dog, which can be intimidating). Repeat this several times until the dog starts to look for the treat after every click. When this happens you have successfully taught your dog that a click means a treat is on the way.

At this stage do not hold the food in your hand or even in a bumbag. Put the treats in a pot and put this where you can reach them. This should ensure the dog doesn’t become fixated on watching the food. This is where many would-be clicker trainers go wrong and end up with a dog who will only work if the trainer is holding food.

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