How to Use Clicker Training to Teach Your Puppy New Skills

Here are some tips for using clicker training to teach three basic commands.

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To become successful adventure companions, puppies have a lot of skills to master. Clicker training is a great method for helping puppies learn. The method marks and rewards good behavior. Every time a puppy completes a task correctly, he is conditioned with a click. The click is a unique sound that comes from a mechanical noisemaker and marks the precise moment he is doing the right thing. The mark is followed by a training treat to reinforce the correct behavior. Here are some tips for using clicker training to teach three basic commands.

Recall
Having a puppy come when called is one of the most important of all commands. To train recall, say the word ‘come’ and when your puppy turns to run to you, give him a click. When he arrives at your side then give him a treat. Start with short distances and focus on training the command in a 5–10-minute session. Repeat for several days and progressively add distance between you and your pup. After a week, try it with a second person. A command coming from a different voice is important, especially if other people will spend time with your pup. Command the pup, give him a click the moment he turns to run towards you, and give him a treat when returns to your side.

Kennel
A puppy needs to be comfortable in a kennel, especially if you plan to travel with him or want him to be crate trained. Start by placing a kennel on the ground and leave the door open. Place some treats in the kennel, and then give your puppy a command (‘kennel’ is a popular choice). Let him enter the kennel, and when he finds a treat give him a click. To get him to spend more time in the kennel try placing a bath towel in the bottom of the kennel. Spread treats around for him to find. Every time he finds one give him a click. The final step is to give him the ‘kennel’ command and when he loads up you’ll give him a click followed by a treat. To get the pup out of the kennel, use the ‘come’ recall command. Click when he comes out of the box and a treat when he arrives at your side. Now you’re building a training foundation using two commands: first to get him to kennel and then to get him to come.

Sit
To teach a puppy to sit, it can be helpful to use a place board. Place boards can be stands that are usually 2×3 feet and are several inches off the ground. Puppies like spots, and those spots give them a sense of place. Begin by asking your puppy to ‘come’ on to the place board. When he stands on the place board give him a click/treat. Once your puppy is comfortable getting on the place board, you’ll then teach him to sit. Say the command ‘sit,’ and gently push his hindquarters to the place board. Just as his bottom is about to touch the board give a click followed by a treat. Let him off the place board and repeat the ‘come’ and ‘sit’ commands. Repeat the steps while working towards longer durations.

The mark/reward combination of click and treat is a great way to help puppies learn new skills. Owners can focus on what puppies are doing right instead of the mistakes. Teach, reinforce, and reward. The rest will fall into place.

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