A short video demonstrating how to get started with clicker training by introducing your dog to the clicker.
“Doggie Zen” is an exercise I learned from clicker trainer Shirley Chong. This exercise is particularly effective in teaching your dog to focus on you amidst distraction.
Before you begin, remember…
- A click is a promise that a treat is coming. Always offer your dog a reward after you click, even if you have made an error.
- Reinforce (click and treat) any behavior you like. Ignore or manage behavior you don’t like.
- Wait until the dog has offered the behavior several times before putting a name on it. For example, if you are trying to teach your dog to “Sit” using the clicker, don’t use the word “Sit” until you have captured the behavior several times.
- Gather your treats, clicker and dog. Put your dog on a leash to keep her near you, if necessary.
- Hold out a treat in a closed fist for your dog. Your dog will lick your hand to get at the treat.
- As soon as your dog stops licking or sniffing your hand (even for a second), click and open your hand to present the reward.
- Repeat Steps 2 and 3 until your dog is no longer attempting to touch you. When this happens, begin waiting for the dog to look at you before you click and treat.
- Move your fist to a different place; hold it out to one side, then the other. This will help your dog understand that looking at you, not looking for the treat, is what earns a reward.
Let’s teach our dogs the most important word they’ll ever hear: their names. The good news is, this simple, life-saving word can be taught in literally a matter of minutes.
All you’ll need to do is grab your dog, a leash (if you need it to keep him nearby), and 50 or so really, really good treats. I’m not talking about dog biscuits or those pre-packaged, food coloring-filled store-bought treats — we mean business here. I’m talking about hot dogs, chicken, turkey, pieces of salami, roast beef, and the like. The good stuff. The stuff you were always told not to feed your dog from the table. Anything your dog would love to get his little paws on counts. (Obviously, check with your vet if your dog has dietary or medical issues.)
You don’t need to use big treats — slices or bits the size of your pinky nail work just fine for even the largest dogs. This is a treat your dog loves, remember?
If you want to go high-tech with your training, get a clicker as well. Remember to condition your dog to the clicker before getting started, if it’s your first time using one. If you don’t have a clicker, no worries — with this exercise, you can simply skip that step in the following instructions:
- Place the treats within easy reach for you, but where your dog cannot get them.
- Say the dog’s name, click the clicker and feed a treat. Do not ask for a sit, do not call the dog from a distance, and do not repeat the dog’s name. Click as soon as you say the dog’s name and feed a treat.
- If your dog isn’t paying attention, move backwards with the leash in your hand. Wait for the dog to look at you, say his name, then click and treat.
- Repeat with all treats. Do this exercise at least twice a day in different locations.
Once you’ve done this exercise for a couple of sessions, test its effectiveness by saying your dog’s name while he’s not looking. His head should snap up and he should focus his big greedy brown eyes on you in hopes of getting a treat. If he does, congratulations! You’re ready to move him outside and repeat the process. If not, check that you’re still using a super-yummy treat in a non-distracting environment and repeat the exercise a few times before testing it again.