Clicker

This is a quick thumb nail sketch of this excellent method of training which communicates very quickly to your dog when training a new behaviour. It differs from conventional lure and reward training in that the dog concentrates on learning the new behaviour rather than just following a treat.

The click should never be used to gain the dog's attention; it is used to precisely mark a behaviour that you would like the dog to repeat and there should be a short gap between the click and the delivery of a reward for best effect. An easy way to understand the method is to think of the 'click' as taking a photo of what the dog was doing at that moment in time.

A cue or command is not used until the dog has learned a behaviour and is offering it consistently. If the cue is put in too quickly, a half formed behaviour has been labelled and the response will never be totally consistent.

To understand this more clearly, here is an example of how to teach a simple behaviour to begin with using the clicker.

Many people greet dogs by staring, leaning forward and putting out their hand but unfortunately this can be perceived as a threat in 'doggy language'. It can cause the dog to back off fearfully, jump up at the person or even snap. We cannot educate the whole of the population not to lean towards our dogs but we can change the dog's perception and response to this action.

The first clicker behaviour taught at Paws'n'Learn is the 'hand touch' greeting.

  • Proffer the front of a hand to the dog and click exactly at the moment that the dog's nose touches the hand, then deliver a treat. Repeat until the dog understands that the action of touching the hand is motivating you to click and treat.

Make eye contact and then proffer the hand. Click and then deliver the treat when the dog touches the front of the hand. Repeat until the dog is confident.

Gradually lean and move more quickly towards the dog until he/she accepts this approach by immediately touching the front of the hand. Begin to involve other people in training this behaviour, talking them through how you want them to behave.

Finally when the dog is offering this behaviour consistently as a greeting, put in a cue such as "Say Hello" or "Touch".

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