Do I always give a treat? Isn’t the click enough?
Always follow your click with a treat or risk undermining your training. Click here to learn why.
What if I accidentally clicked the wrong thing?
Treat anyway! Have a variety of treats. When you mistakenly click, dole out a more boring treat, such as dry dog food. Not giving the treat after clicking will only confuse your dog and weaken the training power of the clicker.
Why do I need to use a clicker? Why can’t I just use my voice?
You can use your voice, but it will be less effective.
The clicker makes a consistent sound
As opposed to your voice, the clicker sounds exactly the same every time you use it. It’s difficult to keep voice tone, volume, and pitch as consistent as the sound a clicker makes. Inconsistencies in your voice can confuse your dog. Your voice will change depending on whether you drank wine or coffee, are excited or tired. Household member’s voices also differ in sound. The clicker helps all family members communicate with the same clarity.
The clicker sounds unique
A clicker makes a distinct sound. Deciphering the difference between two words is much more difficult for a dog than deciphering the difference between a word and a click.
I hate the sound of the clicker. Can I just use my voice?
Yes. To do this, choose a word not normally used in your everyday vocabulary, such as ‘Excellent.’ A distinctive sound could also work. Use with the same timing as when you would normally click. Follow your word or sound—as you would a click—with a treat. If you decide to use your voice rather than the clicker, please be careful about your timing. It’s easier to have sloppy timing using your voice than it is a clicker. Sloppy timing will confuse your dog.
Do I have to use treats? What about praise or petting?
Dogs tire of petting and praise more quickly than food treats, limiting their usefulness.
What’s so great about using treats?
Treats are quick, effective, and easy! Most dogs will work hard to receive a small morsel. It takes only a moment to reinforce with a treat as your dog gulps it down. In a very short time period you can reward many behaviors. Repetition speeds training. Rewards, such as walks, provide little opportunity for repetition because they are time-consuming to administer: They can only be given once in what amounts to a large jackpot!
My dog isn’t food motivated
All dogs are food motivated or they would starve! Dogs may not want treats for a variety of reasons: nausea from being anxious in the car or classroom, being full, getting too many daily calories are some reasons. We are experts in finding treats that your dog will be excited about. Ask us in class for ideas!
When is petting an effective training tool?
Petting is a great way to reward your dog for behaving politely throughout the day. If, for instance, she solicits your attention by sitting sweetly in front of you when you’re relaxing on the couch, petting is a wonderful way to let her know that you appreciate her polite behavior.
Should I click more than once?
No! Extra clicks will only confuse your dog. One of the reasons the clicker works so well as a training tool is that it sounds the same every time—the dog hears only one in-and-out click. If your dog performs exceptionally well, click once, then jackpot with more or yummier treats to communicate your enthusiasm.
When do I begin to wean my dog from treats?
Once your dog understands with clarity what you want, start to reduce the frequency of click-treats. You can do this be introducing two-fers (see below).
What is a two-fer?
A ‘two-fer’ is like the old two-for-one movie tickets—you get two for the price of one. A training two-fer is when you require your dog to do something more than once before clicking and treating only the second attempt.
Two-fer’s teach persistence
Not clicking every attempt your dog makes can encourage persistence if you click and treat them for continuing to try
Two- and more-fers can cause your dog to work harder
Once you begin two- and more-fer’s, your dog’s performance may waver from lackluster to outstanding. Inconsistent performance is normal, expected, and desired. You will selectively reward the most outstanding responses. If your dog’s performance becomes consistently lackluster, you are probably introducing to- and more-fers too quickly. If this happens, reward more frequently until performance is good once again. The next time you attempt to wean from treats, do so more conservatively.
When can I begin two- and more-fer’s?
Once your dog understands what you want at a basic level, you can begin asking for more.
What’s an example of a two-fer?
Once your dog understands that going to a mat earns clicks and treats, you can begin to give two-fers. The next time your dog touches the mat, don’t click or treat at first. When she repeats, click and jackpot! That’s a two-fer!
What’s a jackpot?
A jackpot is a surprisingly large amount of treats that can communicate to your dog a job well done. Three to five treats or a handful can constitute a jackpot.
When can I stop using the clicker?
The clicker is a great training tool for teaching and polishing new behaviors. Once your dog is accurately performing on cue, you can stop using the clicker until you’re ready to teach something new.
When can I stop rewarding my dog?
Never! If you completely stop rewarding your dog for doing a behavior you like, she will eventually stop doing it. Instead, gradually wean your dog from always needing a reward. Reward outstanding behavior intermittently. Behaviors that were formed with a clicker and treats can eventually be maintained with other ‘natural’ rewards such as petting, play, and walks. Ideas on how to do so are provided in class.