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    How to Clicker Train Your Dog

    Articlepet advice guidesTuesday 27 November 2012
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    From the sound of a clicker the dog knows what he is doing is good, and he will receive a reward for it. It is worth behaving well for him, if receiving a reward...

    The clicker is a small slat mounted in a plastic box and gives a sharp, clicking sound under the pressure of your thumb. This sound will be the signal from which the dog knows he is behaving himself and will receive a reward for it.

    The "click" minimizes the time between the expected behaviour and the reward. We do not disturb the dog in his action, but reward him only for a good activity.

    Another way of conditioning
    For conditioning we only need a handful of treats. Chop something tasty into small cubes, like sausages or cheese. It is important that this should be easy to swallow, as chewing distracts his attention. We have to go through clicker conditioning once (so we needn’t repeat it before every new practice) and it is also imperative that we should induce specifically good feelings in the dog with our hustling. There is nothing else to do than click, and then give him a snack, a little bit later we click again, another snack... and so on.

    You should take care not to keep the treat within the dog's sight, and also not to connect the sight of the cheese cubs containing bags with the food but with the "click" sound. Give him the treat in turns from your right and your left hand, and sometimes throw it on the floor. If the dog turns his head attentively towards you, the first phase should be finished.

    This is a very effective tool that we can use for fixing problems– but never click with the purpose of drawing his attention or calling him.

    The use of the clicker

    The clicker’s use has got three basic methods. If the dog performs an action itself we can catch it: the moment the dog behaves a certain way, you click and reward him. Alternatively, you should attract the dog to the desired position and then click. Difficult or complex tasks should be built step by step.

    The pointer tool is a thin, 60-80 cm wooden or plastic rod, or it may be an extendable telescopic aerial. The dog's task is to touch the end of the stick with his nose. After mastering the exercise the stick may be very useful for directing the dog in different directions (rotations, crawls, etc.).

    Prepare a pile of treats again and keep the stick at the dog's nose level. If you are lucky, it will tap it first – then click and reward. Henceforward his real touch will be awarded only.

    At first it is enough when he looks at the rod, so you click and give him a cheese cube immediately. If at the next attempt he goes a bit closer, give him an extra reward and praise him highly. He will get to understand that the reward is in some way connected to the stick, and will suddenly touch it.

    Frequently change the position of the stick: hold it down to ground level, lift it over the dog’s head, move it a little farther so that he must take some steps or turn for tapping it. If the dog always touches the stick, introduce the command by telling him the chosen sound signal (for ex. "stick") when he turns towards it, but only reward him if he really touched it.

    You can teach almost any task with the help of the clicker, but you should consider however, whether you can find a simpler solution to achieve the desired behaviour. For example, to make the dog watch your hands, you can fix this quickly by hiding cheese cubes between your fingers. But if you want to get him to look in your face, sit on a comfortable armchair, call the dog and if he glances at you, click and the snack may also come.

    When bringing the tasks to perfection it is very important to use the lack of reward and the encouragement. We should, however, find a good measure to maintain dog's motivation while not rewarding him for something that is not very good.

     • The lack of rewards:

    Use for example the "bad" or "no" command. The dog will understand that he is not going to get a reward for what he is just doing.

    •     Encouragement: From the words "that’s it" or "go on", the dog will understand that what he is doing is good, but not good enough, so he has to try much harder. Generally, the method of encouragement has to be used with beginner or uncertain dogs; the lack of rewards with advanced or reliable dogs. The lack of reward will encourage a dog to think about the purpose of the task. Do not forget, however, that every dog has its own personality, so each of them responds differently to the training. It is therefore very important to understand your dog and adjust the training to him.
     

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