How to Clicker-train a Dog

Clicker Dog Training Tips

Before you even pick up a clicker, you have to be prepared to reward your dog consistently and on time. "With clicker training, timing is everything," explains Evan Feinberg, a veterinarian in Stevenson, MD. "A matter of seconds can make the difference between success and failure. Your dog has a rather short attention span, and you really have to seize the moment." For example, if the command is "sit," then you need to dispense the treat almost as soon as your dog's bottom hits the ground. If you wait more than three seconds, it's too late, and chances are your pooch won't associate the click or the reward with his behavior.

Also, clicking is certainly an important part of clicker training, but you don't have to buy a top-of-the-line or specialized gadget to do it. "I often suggest that clients just snap their fingers if they can create a loud, consistent snap," says dog behaviorist and obedience trainer Joy Freedman of Baltimore, MD. "That way, you're never without your clicker, and you can't misplace it!"

Another aspect that many would-be clicker trainers overlook is the reward itself. You can't clicker-train your dog with any old treat. The reward needs to consistently provide incentive for your pooch to follow your command. A great test for determining which treat is best is to choose two small food items, such as a store-bought dog treat and a small piece of chicken meat, then put one in each fist. Hold your hands out evenly, and whichever he chooses will be your go-to clicker-training reward [Source: Freedman].

Again, consistency is also crucial for training success. All family members must be on board for clicker training to work. The clicker must be used every time a command is given, and the same, doggy-chosen treat must always follow, regardless of who is training the dog.