Now that you have read about the benefits of using a clicker to train your dog, it is time to teach him just what the clicker means by charging the clicker. Charging the clicker means that he learns that the click precedes a treat. Practice the following activity in an environment with few distractions. You are not asking your dog to perform a specific behavior. Instead, you are looking for him to associate the click with a treat.
- Reach your hand for a treat and give him a single piece. Please note that if you are reaching for the treat as you click, your dog is most likely only focusing on the arm movement and how it will get him a reward, instead of the click doing this.
- Take your hand away from the treats and repeat. Practice steps 1-2 for ten to fifteen repetitions.
- Take a break and start the processes again later in the day. Aim for three to four practice sessions.
After you have concluded the three to four practice sessions, it is time to test your dog’s understanding of the clicker. Make sure that you are still in an environment with very few distractions. Click when your dog is not looking at you. His head should turn towards you in anticipation of receiving a reward. If not, continue to charge the clicker. If he does respond, great! You can move on to asking your dog to perform simple, known, behaviors to solidify his understanding. For example, ask your dog to sit. Click when he does and then reach for the treat to reward him.
Now that you are using the clicker, there are still a few rules to follow.
- Only click once before reaching for the reward.
- If you are asking your dog to do something, such as calling his name in hopes that he responds, and he doesn’t, do not click. You will be telling your dog that not responding is what you wanted from him.
- A treat always follows the click. Even if you accidentally click, make sure to reward. You want to make sure that the association between the click and the treat remains strong.
As mentioned in the previous blog, once your dog has an understanding of the new behavior that you are teaching, you can stop using the clicker and move on to a verbal cue. Just make sure to teach the cue the same way that you taught the clicker.