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WHAT IS A CLICKER?
A small, simple plastic device you hold in your hand. It has a button on it. Press that button to make a click noise. Clickers don't use batteries.
ARE SOME CLICKERS BETTER THAN OTHERS?
Not really. Some have better build quality than others, but none are very costly. You'll struggle to pay much more than £6 in a high street shop. You might want to avoid particularly loud clickers, as some dogs are frightened by these.
DO CLICKERS REPLACE TREATS?
No. You will still need a good supply of training treats to use along with the clicker. The idea is that your dog comes to associate the click noise with getting a treat. The 'click' provides instant feedback, letting your dog know that whatever he is doing right at that moment has made his owner happy.
HOW TO USE A CLICKER
The first step is to teach your dog that a 'click' noise means he is going to get a treat.
Sit down with your dog; have your clicker and a good supply of treats ready.
Click the clicker and IMMEDIATELY give your dog a treat. There should be a minimal gap between click and treat.
Repeat about fifteen times. Do the process again a few hours later, or the next day.
You should begin to see that when your dog hears the click, he starts looking up in expectation of getting a treat. This is the sign that the association process is complete.
REWARD GOOD BEHAVIOUR
Now your dog knows that when he hears a click, it is because he is doing something treat-worthy - i.e., something good.
Let's say you want to teach your dog to sit. Don't tell him to 'sit', yet. Hold a treat above his nose. Raise it higher and over the back of his head, toward his neck. He should naturally lower himself into a sitting position.
Click as he is lowering himself. This immediate feedback lets him know that he has made a good decision, and more precisely than just giving the treat as there is often a delay between action and treat.
Repeat several times until your dog is getting the hang of it. Then you can start adding the command to 'sit', but keep clicking and treating.
IMAGINATION IS THE ONLY LIMIT!
You'll be amazed at what you can teach your dog with a clicker. If you have a very noisy dog, give a click in the moment when he stops barking (at the postman, at the mirror, at the wind, whatever). Then treat.
Provided the association process has been successfully completed, he will know that he has done 'the right thing' thanks to the click.
Then, you can start adding the command. When he is barking, tell him "quiet". When he stops, click and treat. Soon he will learn what the command means.
Have fun discovering amazing new things you can teach with the clicker. I taught Frank to count!