Clicker Training - First Steps

Download this handout as a PDF at the bottom of this page.

Supplies needed:
Yummy treats, treat pouch, clicker

Getting started or “charging the clicker”:

  • Find a comfortable, quiet place for you to sit down and have your puppy nearby.
  • Load one hand with treats and hold the clicker in the other hand.
  • Click and treat several times (make sure to click BEFORE you treat).
  • Repeat this exercise with variations: deliver treats while you are standing, toss treats on the floor instead of holding them in front of your puppy’s nose, deliver treats while your are walking.
  • When your puppy looks up or pricks his/her ears when hearing the click, you are ready to move on.

The 3 rules of clicker training (according to Gina Phairas of Tails and Tots Family Dog Training):

  1. If you click, you must treat.
  2. Click only once.
  3. Don’t use the clicker to get your puppy’s attention.

How to get the behavior you want to reward:

  • Catch the puppy during the behavior, click and treat.
  • Lure the puppy into position, then click and treat.
  • Shape a behavior by taking one small step at a time.

We will talk about these methods in class.

How to eliminate behaviors you don’t like:

  • Establish a “no reward” signal, like “oops” or “too bad”.
  • Positively reinforce an incompatible behavior (a reliable “sit” will prevent your puppy from jumping up).
  • Time-outs: Immediately after a misbehavior, turn away and ignore the puppy for 30 sec to a minute.

Different methods of using the time-out will be discussed in class.

A great book to get started:
Clicker Training for Dogs by Karen Pryor; available at amazon.com for about $15.