Clicker Training: How it Can Work for Your Puppy

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Your puppy will love to please you; he'll relish your approval and will show off to get it! But he will expect you to be in charge, so teaching him to behave will be great fun. And once he's learned some basic commands, communicating with your puppy will be much easier, and help you build your relationship with him. For example, you'll be able to make sure he always comes when he's called, walks to heel, and behaves well when out and about.

A good way to do this is by using the "Clicker Training" method. Clicker Training was developed in the 1940s as a way to communicate with dolphins and whales, and the principles translate easily to dogs. It's a kind, modern and scientific way to make pet training easy.

How it works

The principle of Clicker Training is to associate the 'click' with the right behavior, reward that behavior, and make sure your puppy understands why he was given the reward.

By using the click to mark the correct behavior, your puppy will know exactly what he did to be rewarded. Clicker Training relies on positive reinforcement - or reward - which means that punishment isn't necessary.

Taking a really simple approach to training your puppy is the best way to get results. With Clicker Training your puppy associates the click with good behavior, and will expect rewards for his success. Start with giving treats and then, as you progress with each command, move to using praise and a little fussing as a reward.

Getting Started

You can get your puppy to do almost anything, from simple commands such as 'sit' and 'stay' to fetching the remote, or getting your slippers. All it takes is a little patience.

When you start, find a place away from distractions and have some dry food ready as a reward.

Begin with the basics: say your puppy's name. As soon as he looks at you, click and give him a kibble as a reward. (Puppy's ears are very sensitive, so be careful not to hold the clicker too close.)

He'll soon come to understand that when he hears his name and gives you his full attention, he'll be rewarded with a click and a treat. Use this as the basic principle to all the commands you want him to learn; always click and treat when he's done well. Once he has the hang of that you can start with more commands, like 'sit', 'stay' and 'down'.

A little at a time

Your puppy will see everything as a game, so keep him stimulated by changing what he's learning. It's also much easier to do it a little at a time, instead of in one mammoth session. Issue each command for about five minutes and come back to it whenever you can.

Practice the commands in lots of different places: in the living room, garden, hall or kitchen, even out on walks, so that he gets used to responding to you in all sorts of situations. You can use the click technique to help with other aspects of your puppy's training, such as encouraging him to stand still for examination and getting him used to traveling by car.

Your puppy will learn very quickly and respond to love and affection as well as rewards. Training will help build a lasting bond between the two of you and you'll be rewarded with a happy, obedient, well-trained dog.

For information on other aspects of training, click here

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