Get Results With Puppy Clicker Training

Get Results With Puppy Clicker Training

By Sue-Ellen McIntyre for Exceptional Canine

Get Results With Puppy Clicker Training

If you want to really click with your new puppy (pardon the pun), consider clicker training. The clicker is a small mechanical device that you hold in your hand. You press it to make a short clicking sound at the exact moment your puppy does the right thing -- for example, when he sits on command. You also immediately reward the behavior with a pat or a treat, and lots of praise.

Your puppy will soon learn to connect the clicking sound with behavior that pleases you and with getting a reward, so he'll want to repeat the experience. It's an effective way to teach your puppy any behavior he is physically and mentally capable of performing. It's also much faster and more reliable than using treats or praise alone.

Ready, Click, Go!

Puppies as young as 8 weeks are old enough to learn how to use this positive reinforcement training method. Books and online articles help, but the best way to learn is to attend a clicker training class. It is really amazing how fast puppies pick up clicker training. It's us humans who need the practice working on our timing of when to click and give the treat!

I tell my students to think of the clicker much like a camera. You want to "take the picture" to capture the desired behavior at the exact moment it's happening. And don't think of the clicker as a remote control. You don't have to point it at your puppy when you're clicking!

Example: Clicker Training "Sit"

Ask your puppy to "sit" and coax him into position by holding a treat above his nose to get his attention. You might need to move your hand toward his tail to encourage him to drop his rear end. The instant his bottom hits the floor, you click and treat.

Click for Life

As your puppy becomes an adult, you can use clicker training to progress from basic commands to really fun stuff, like ringing a bell with his nose or taking a bow. I use it with my two adult agility dogs to reinforce behaviors they already know and to let them know they're doing a good job. Since they associate it with commands, they respond faster. I also use it to teach them anything new. Clicker training can and should be used throughout a dog's life to continually shape his behavior.

Clicker training relies on precise timing, but it's worth the time to learn how to use this valuable training tool. Once you get the hang of it, you'll be thrilled with the results -- and you and your best friend will have a lot of fun in the process.

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/eclypse78

Exceptional Canine expert Sue-Ellen McIntyre is a certified dog trainer, an AKC Canine Good evaluator and a professional member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. She enjoys training people and canine clients at her business, Savvysnoots, in Norwalk, Conn.