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Frequently Asked Questions about Clicker Training

“What is clicker training?”
A clicker is a small device that makes a click sound. It is used to tell the dog that he did the right thing and a treat is coming. When your dog does the right thing, such as open his mouth to drop your sneaker, you click and give him a small tasty treat. Clicker trainers actively try to set up their animals to succeed while ignoring or preventing any undesirable behaviors. The training goals are broken down into small, achievable steps. Punishments (or “corrections”) are not a part of the learning process when using this method.

“Why not just say ‘good’ or ‘yes’ instead of clicking?”
Yes you can, but training with a clicker is generally a bit faster.

“Do I need to carry a clicker all of the time?”
No, the clicker is a learning tool and does not need to be used once the dog understands what you are asking him. At that point you can use a verbal reward marker. If you forget your clicker, it’s ok (but less effective) to use a word such as “good”.

“Should I always feed when I click?”
Yes! A click is promise. Treats should be small (pea size) and something your dog really likes. If you didn’t mean to click just feed him and start over.

“Won’t all the treats make my dog fat?”
Treats should be pea-sized, used in moderation and deducted from the dog’s daily ration. You can use food from his meal to do your inside training, when outside it is vital to use fresh high quality, healthy food such as meat or cheese.

“Can I use other rewards instead of treats?”
Yes, and it is very important to do this. I tend to use the clicker and treats in my initial teaching phase and then a verbal marker and all kinds of rewards once the behavior has been learned. It’s also a good idea to ask your dog to “sit” or some other behavior before giving him other things/privileges that he values.

“If I use a clicker and food to train my dog, won’t that mean the dog will only obey if he can see the treat or the clicker?”
This is true only if the trainer makes a mistake of always showing the dog the treat first. To use the clicker method correctly, the dog is rewarded after performing the behavior!

“Shouldn’t my dog listen to me because he loves and respects me and not just for treats?”
Yes and no. You are often asking your dog to do things that he doesn’t want to do and to do them no matter what else is going on. You are going to find you will often need something else besides a great relationship to motivate with and you have two choices, punishment or rewards.

“Can I teach my dog to NOT do things using a clicker?”
Yes, you can simply click and treat your dog for abstaining from the behavior you don’t like. Alternatively, you can use the clicker method to teach him to do something to replace the offending behavior. For instance, you can teach him to sit instead of jumping up to greet you. The clicker should not to be used to distract your dog from engaging in problem behaviors.

“What do I do if my dog disobeys a command?”
If your dog disobeys you, he has not been trained properly so you are the one to take the responsibility. Your reward is either not good enough or he has not been taught thoroughly. Make the task easier and try again. If you do not have a reward equal to the one he is distracted by, play the numbers game (for example: when your dog responds to the “drop it” cue, frequently return the object after feeding a treat. This way, if he picks up something really gross, he will drop it when you ask even though you couldn’t possibly have anything better!).

“If my dog gets it wrong should I say NO?”
You don’t need to say “NO” because by just not clicking you are telling the dog that is not what you want and for him to try something else. It’s not about the dog always being right, it’s about the dog learning to try.

“How long should my training sessions be and when is the best time to have them?”
For puppies and young dogs, 5 minute sessions sprinkled throughout the day are fine. Adult dogs can work for 20-30 minutes at a time. Train before meals and after exercise. Train during TV commercial breaks.

“My dog is afraid of the Clicker”
Turn down the volume by putting the clicker in your pocket or wrapping it in a napkin and toss treats when you click. Your dog will get used to the sound.

“What does C/T mean?”
Click your clicker and feed your dog a treat.

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