Dog Training Tips
Clicker training is very easy to learn. I’ve taught a 10 year old how to use the clicker with my dog in less than 5 minutes.
But here are a few additional dog training tips to help you be more effective and efficient when training your dog.
Consistency: pick one word and stick to it
This is really important. Your dog can learn a lot of words and a lot of commands, but it is best to associate one behavior for one word.
For example, when I was training my dog, I used the command “Lay” for him to lay down.
Other people I know use the word “Down” to command their dog to lay down.
I did not use the word “Down” because I had already created a connection in my dog’s mind to the word “Down” and getting down from the bed.
One word is not better than the other.
I was training my dog to ring a bell when he needed to go outside and would say, “touch it”. I said it so much it eventually warped into “Taco”.
Now when I say “Taco”, my dog rings a bell to go outside.
When my friends witness this they are very perplexed.
More Consistency: Can he go on the couch or can’t he?
The rules need to stay intact. If the dog is not allowed on your couch, but you do not enforce it with consistency, your dog is going to go on your couch.
Your dog wants to please you, make you happy and live by your rules, but it can be very confusing for your pooch (or your kids, for that matter) if the rules keep changing.
You can’t get mad at your dog for going on your couch today, if you let him on your couch yesterday, even if you didn’t let him on your couch two days ago.
That’s like telling your kid that their curfew is 11pm, letting them stay out until 12pm, and then getting mad at them randomly when they come home one night at 12pm.
Make the rules and stick to them. (In the case of the kid, you would positively reinforce him or her coming home on time for curfew.)
My dog has been training for a while now, so it doesn’t take long for him to pick up a new trick, but in the beginning there is a bit of a learning curve, especially if you are doing puppy clicker training.
Puppies are notorious for getting distracted very easily.
Building the connection between the click sound doesn’t take that long – a day to a week – depending on how often you do it and how trainable your dog is.
I found that phase to be the longest time in the process. That is when you need patience.
Also, if you are teaching more complex behaviors or tricks, they must be broken down into several steps with clicker training.
This can make it feel like the training is going slower than it actually is. Again, have a little patience.
I believe positive reinforcement is always better than negative reinforcement, and that is why clicker training is so effective.
This is how I think about it…
You can positively reinforce one behavior, or negatively reinforce an unlimited number of bad behaviors.
Again, this can get confusing for the dog.
Don’t sniff croches.
Don’t charge toward the person.
These can be easily summed up by SIT. Or STAY.
My dog was very wary of humans when I first got him from the shelter. He would bark at anyone that got close to me or him, especially if the person was walking toward me directly.
Now, when I say STAY as a person walk towards me, he is still and quiet, and he just watches the person walk by.
Forgiveness: especially with puppies
Mistakes will happen. Lessons will be forgotten, especially at first.
This goes back to positivity.
No one wants to see a pile of poo on their new carpet, but the best thing you can do is clean it up, give your dog a kiss, and say, “You’ll do better next time!” and continue to use the clicker.
And if it’s something like jumping up on you or another person, you can say “no” firmly, but don’t give it more attention than that. Better yet to say, “no” and then withhold your attention to the dog for a little while. That is a kind and more effective negative reinforcer (one of the few that I use) than getting mad at the dog, which is actually a positive reinforcer because it gives the dog your much desired attention.
Make it fun
Rules are important, but also sprinkle in some tricks. Your dog likes it and you can impress friends, family and strangers!
Challenge your dog, but not too much
Dogs get bored, just like humans do. They are intelligent creatures that like to learn. The best thing that you can do is to teach a dog new tricks, even if the dog is old.
The key is that you want to make it a new learning experience for the dog, but not so challenging that the dog gets frustrated.
It’s definitely a balance.
If your dog isn’t “getting it”, break down the behavior into several steps. If you already have it in steps, break it down further. Reward your dog at first for even a portion of the action.
For example, before my dog fully rolled over, he would lie down and do a half roll. This would get a click because he was on the right track.
It wasn’t long before he completely understood and was rolling all over the place!