Our pet behaviourist, Nick Jones, says you should “Look upon the clicker as similar to taking a photo of a dog, so as soon as the dog is doing the correct action, you can click to mark it and then follow up with food.”
Introducing the clicker
A key thing to remember when clicker training your puppy is that click = food.
Before you start to clicker train, test clickers in a store to ensure they’re not too loud for your dog.
To begin puppy clicker training, hold the treat in your hand and put it next to your dog’s mouth while clicking so that the dog associates this sound with food. Nothing is being asked of the dog in these first stages, just a click and a treat. You should do this gradually over a few days.
Clicker training your puppy
Once you have introduced the clicker, you can start to ask commands. For example, ask your dog to ‘Sit’ and once they perform the desired behaviour, click and treat.
You can do this with other commands such as down, again only clicking when your dog reaches the position being asked of him. Always be patient and wait for the precise position, then click and treat.
You can also try to ask your dog to stay, and click after a few seconds as well as rewarding him with food.
Top tip: Do not repeat the command endlessly, just one clear command.
When to stop clicker training?
The clicker is here to primarily introduce a new behaviour in the early stages. It’s a good way to help you install these desirable behaviours in your puppy.
Once the behaviours are there, and the dog is performing nicely and promptly to your commands, you can begin to reduce clicker training. You can also reduce how much you feed your dog after every command as the dog will be willing to do it for you.
Perhaps feed the dog every third command it carries out, and then fifth time, and so on. You can allow treats to become less frequent until you’re not really walking your dog with food at all – although, the occasional use of food is always handy!