Clicker Training Dogs: 4 Simple Games To Get Started

clicker training dogs

Clicker training is a popular way to train dogs. But sometimes it can be hard to get your dog to respond well to it … and that can cause a lot of frustration. For you and your dog.

Some owners will blame the method. Others may think it’s their dog.

But I’m about to tell you something that may surprise you …

The problem could be you. And that’s okay … it’s an easy fix!

Clicker training dogs is all about timing. If you’re off by a second, you won’t get the results you want.

So today I’ll teach you how to train yourself to use the clicker … before you start training your dog.

But first let’s talk about why clicker training works.

Clicker Training Dogs

Today, most dog owners train their dogs with positive reinforcement. When the dog does what they want, they reinforce the good behavior with a treat.

To you, it’s clear what your dog has done right. But sometimes it’s not so clear for your dog.

And that can have a lot to do with timing.  

If you’ve ever trained a dog, you’ll know what I mean …

You tell your dog to lie down. He does it. But then he gets right back up … before you’ve had a chance to offer the reward.

So what do you do?

Do you give him the treat because he laid down when you told him to? Or will he think he got a reward because he got up? Do you make him do it again?

And then there’s distance training.  

You told him to stay and then come. How do you reward him for the stay from a distance? If you treat him when he comes, will he think all stays get rewarded when he ends up back at your feet?

Those short delays are just enough time to create confusion for your dog.

That’s where the clicker comes in.

Clicker training is also called mark and reward training. That’s because you mark the positive behavior with the clicker and follow up with a reward.

So even if you aren’t able to treat him right away, your dog knows which behavior is the right one … it’s the one associated with the click.

To condition your dog, you must first associate the click with treats. This part’s easy.

You click and then give him a treat immediately. After about 20 repetitions, your dog will know what it means.

But before you even start to condition your dog, you must first train yourself.

4 Games To Learn How To Use A Clicker

For clicker training to work, you need to click the moment your dog does the trick … you can’t give him a chance to pop back up from his down.

And that means you need excellent reaction time.

If you improve your clicker skills, you and your dog will feel less stressed. And it’ll help prevent your dog from learning bad behaviors.

To become a skilled clicker, there are some games you can play on your own or with a friend. They’ll improve your mechanical skill and treat delivery.

Play these games without your dog.

1. Ball Drop

Ball drop’s an easy game you can use to practice your clicker skills.

Take a ball and drop it to the ground. As soon as the ball makes contact with the floor, click.

Let it bounce many times and click each time it makes contact.

2. Dice Game

This game needs two people and a die. One of you will be even numbers and one of you will be odd. Each player will watch for their numbers. When their number appears, that player will click the clicker and quickly pick up the die to roll again.

3. Fastest Draw In The West

This game takes your clicker training a step further. You’ll learn how to …

  • Click
  • Get the reward
  • Deliver the reward smoothly

To start … find a table and place a dish on it (the dish represents your dog).

Click the clicker, get your reward from its holder.

Tip: Treat pouches are very useful for clicker training since you only have one free hand. You can also use your pocket … just be sure your treats are easy to retrieve for fast delivery.

Once you have the treat, place it in the dish.

This will get you into the rhythm …

Click. Grab. Deliver. Click. Grab. Deliver.

And that will help you to be more precise when you train your dog.

Once you feel like you have smooth delivery, take it up a notch.

Set a timer for one minute. See how many times you can click, grab and deliver. The goal is to get faster each time, while still maintaining accuracy.

When you’re training your dog, you want to get the treat directly into your dog’s mouth … so be sure to get it directly in the bowl as you practice

Use a smaller bowl to improve accuracy.

4. Treat Toss Game

When you train your dog, there will be many times when you have to toss a treat to him. This game will teach you to do that with speed and accuracy.

You’ll need your clicker and a bowl for this game.

Place the bowl on the ground.

Click, grab a treat and toss it in the bowl.

Repeat while you try to increase your speed and accuracy.

Once you’re comfortable, time yourself to see how many treats you can get in the bowl in a minute.

Or take 10 treats and click, grab, deliver. When you’re out of treats count how many you got in the bowl. If you have 7 or less treats in the bowl, practice some more.

Once you feel confident with your clicking skills … it’s time to condition your dog.

Condition Your Dog To The Click

Most clickers will come with instructions on how to get started.

The first step will always be to teach your dog that the click means he’ll get a treat.

To do this you’ll click and instantly give him a treat. You’ll likely have to do this 10 to 20 times before you start to give commands.

Once you’ve conditioned your dog, you can start to train him. Give him a command … and the moment he follows through, click. Then grab and deliver the treat.

Clicker training can be an effective way to teach your dog positive behaviors. But with any training … it’ll take time. Be patient and make sure you’re ready to start before you get your dog involved.

This will make you feel more confident which will reflect on your dog. The more comfortable you both are, the easier training will be.

RELATED: 6 steps to successfully crate train your puppy …


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