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Charging the Clicker

This first step is essential - don't skip it!

When training with positive reinforcement, you are going to be "shaping behaviors." Youíre dog already knows everything you are going to teach him. What he doesnít know is how to do it on "CUE." If you choose not to use the clicker, just substitute a short bridge word like "yeah" for the "Click", followed by a treat and "LOTS OF PRAISE" to reward the behavior you are trying to get. Itís not as fast as using the clicker, but it works.
Charging the clicker is classical conditioning, like Pavlov and his drooling dogs. You are going to take a clicker and pair it with a food reward and/or praise until the click itself gets the dog all happy. If you are going to use a bridge word just substitute the "Click" for the "Bridge" word and follow with a treat.

OK, let's get Clicking. Get your clicker and your tasty treats ready. Once the dog catches on to this type of training the presence of a clicker will be enough to get him excited and in "training mode." I will be using the term C&T or C/T in the lessons, meaning to click and give a treat. You won't be clicking forever... the clicker is only used in the training phase of any new behavior! Once the behavior is on "CUE" the clicker can be faded and put away.

Okay, go into a quiet room with your dog and have a bowl of really tasty treats handy. Human type food such as hot dogs, chicken, roast beef, etc. works really well, so do high quality (all natural) dog treats such as the Oinker Roll or 100% freeze dried liver. The treats should be cut up into very small pieces and be soft (crunchy ones take too long to eat).

Now, as long as your dog isn't doing anything naughty at the moment, click your clicker ONCE and give him a treat. Thatís all. Then do it again and give a treat. We are NOT asking for a behavior (such as sit) here at all... just making the connection needed for the clicker to be effective. Try not to click while the dog is doing the same thing, like sitting and watching you, because he might get the idea that what he is doing is responsible for the click and treat. Be random with your clicks. Remember, more is not necessarily better. You only need to click the clicker ONE time to be effective.

Some dogs may be frightened by the click sound. If your dog is, then try muffling the sound by having the clicker in a pocket, or by using a Snapple beverage top - pushing in the raised button in the center makes a softer click. The fear shouldn't last long! Repeat the C/T about 5-10 times per session. You'll know when you can stop - you'll click and your dog will immediately look up at you, "There is that sound, so where is my treat?" Do this exercise as often as necessary on day one. It shouldnít take too many sessions before the dog is glued to you when he sees the clicker. GOOD, that's just what you want.

Once youíve got your clicker charged, here is a fun exercise to do that will help you get used to using the clicker and will also demonstrate just how powerful clicker training is.
The Box
Get a small cardboard box like one you would ship something small in. Get your clicker and lots of treats ready. Go to a quiet, distraction free place with your dog.

Hereís what you do.

Place the box on the floor and walk away from it. Do not draw your dogs attention to it, just wait to see what the dog does. If he goes to investigate the box, click and treat, C/T, the instant he interacts with the box. An interaction could be sniffing the box, touching the box with his foot, sticking his nose in the box, pushing the box with his nose, anything that shows he is aware of the box. The first time you C/T he will probably come over to you and begin watching you and the clicker to see if youíll click and treat him again. Be patient, this may take awhile. Just wait for the next interaction with the box. When it happens, C/T. Each time he interacts with the box, C/T.

Itís fun to see what happens when the dog finally makes the connection between the box and the clicker. Some dogs will push it around the floor, some will put their foot in it or paw at it, some might even try to kill it. My dog would put his head in the box to get me to C/T when he finally figured it out. He would do it over and over as long as I would C/T. Now, years later, if I bring out a small box and put it on the floor, it doesnít take Ace much time at all to get back in the grove. Heís got a great memory and really learned his first "clicker lesson" well.
Now that you've got your clicker all charged up, it's time to "Get Some Attention."

Online Dog Training Lessons
Introduction To Clicker Training
The Clicker
Sit and Stand
Loose Lead Walking
Training Tips

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