Puppy Clicker Training 101: Learn the Ins and Outs of Clicker Training

Image of a young brown puppy

If you have a new puppy, they will need to start learning basic commands and how to behave. Clicker training is a great way to teach your dog commands and other tricks.

This can easily be accomplished in an older dog, but what about puppies? Puppies can also be trained to do many tricks and commands with a clicker.

At first it may seem a little more difficult, but you can easily teach your puppy to do almost anything with a little time and patience with puppy clicker training. This article will explain how to clicker train your new puppy.

What is Puppy Clicker Training?

Clicker training is a positive reinforcement training with the use of a clicker. A clicker is a small mechanical noisemaker that you can use to train your dog to do many things.

This technique uses the theory that animal behaviors that get a reward are more likely to be repeated in the future. So rather than focusing on what your puppy is doing wrong, it focuses more on what your dog is doing right and rewarding them for these great behaviors.

Clicker training focuses on telling your dog what to do and not so much what not to do. It’s positive reinforcement.

This type of training can have a great effect on teaching a dog how to behave. By having a clicker, you are telling your dog exactly what behavior you are rewarding.

When you click the clicker at the exact time that they did something right allows them to associate a sound and treat with their good behaviors. This helps your dog not have to guess on what they did right.

So for example, if you are teaching your dog to lay down, as soon as they lay down, you would click the clicker and give them their reward.

Your puppy will perform many of the wrong behaviors before they do the right thing.

When you ask them to sit or lay down at first, it can take them a long time before they do what you ask. As soon as they perform the task, click the clicker and give them a reward.

With clicker training, you do not have to physically help your dog sit or lie down. They will try many behaviors before figuring out what is the right behavior.

With clicker training, you never have to punish your dog or tell them no; they are only rewarded for their correct behaviors.

Can you do puppy clicker training, or should you wait until your dog is older?

While puppies and young dogs have a very short attention span, it may be a little more difficult for you to do puppy clicker training in an outdoor setting.

It’s best to start with just a few minutes each day, teaching them commands.

Start with a simple command such as sit, down, or stay. After they have mastered one command, then you can progress to another.

Most puppies can start clicker training at around 8 weeks of age.

Just do not get discouraged if your dog does not take to training right away. Patience with these young puppies is key to your success.

Steps for Puppy Clicker Training

It’s best to start off doing puppy clicker training in a quiet area free of all distractions. You should also start this training when your puppy is hungry and wants treats.

Make sure you have plenty of your pet’s favorite training treat. Make sure that these are small treats, as it’s unhealthy to overfeed your puppy.

When you start puppy clicker training, there are a few steps that you need to move through to teach your dog tricks. These include:

  1. Teach your dog what the sound of the clicker means that they’re getting a treat.
  2. Start with simple commands
  3. Advance to more difficult tasks and tricks

Associating the Clicker With a Treat/Reward

At first, you need to teach your puppy to associate the clicker sound with a treat. This is the foundation of the training process.

These are steps that you can take to teach your dog that the clicker sound means a tasty reward:

  1. Fill a small bowl with your dog’s favorite treat. Make sure that these are very small, as they will be getting a lot of treats at the beginning of their training. Usually, treats such as small pieces of hot dog, cheese, or other very strong-smelling training treats. These treats are not meant to replace your dog’s meal but reward them for their good behavior.
  2. Sit on the floor with your dog with the small bowl near you, but so that your dog cannot get treats out of the bowl. Have the clicker in one hand and the treat bowl near the other hand.
  3. Click the clicker, and when your dog reacts to the sound, such as coming toward you or twitching their ears, give them a treat. Aft first, they will not understand why they are getting a treat, but eventually, they will catch on.
  4. Keep clicking the clicker and giving your dog a treat over and over. Always make sure you click first then give them a treat. Do not go too fast; make sure that your dog has time to chew and swallow before you give them the next treat.
  5. After a few repetitions of this, your dog will look at the hand that is giving him a treat when they hear the clicker sound. This means that your puppy has learned that the clicker sound means that they’re about to get a tasty treat.
  6. Once your puppy understands what the clicker followed by a reward is about, you can start showing them behaviors that you like by clicking the clicker and giving them a treat. It’s best to start off with sit. When they hit the ground, click and treat. Your puppy will quickly learn what all this means.
  7. At first, your puppy may seem confused and wonder what they did to get the treat. Eventually, they will associate the word sit with a click and treat. Usually, it only takes a few times for your puppy to associate words, clicks, and treats with the actions that they are doing.

Puppies are very quick to recognize these click and treat patterns. They will be running around sitting and lying down, hoping that they will get a click and treat.

Once your dog realizes that you will give them a treat for their behaviors, they will try anything to get a treat out of you. Puppies trained using a clicker will spend all their time trying to please you in hopes of a treat.

Teaching Basic Commands with a Clicker

Once your dog has learned that the clicker means a treat, you can start teaching basic commands such as sit and stay.

At the exact moment that your dog does the command that you say, press the clicker, give them a treat and praise them. Make sure that you click at the exact time that your dog does the command, or they can easily get confused.

Clicker training is very accurate at teaching your dog new tricks. Not only does clicker training help your dog understand what they should be doing, but it also helps them want to repeat the command in the future as they are getting a tasty treat.

Teaching Advanced Commands with a Clicker

Once your dog has learned the basic commands, you can use a clicker to teach more advanced training and other desired behaviors.

Clicker training allows for a hands-off approach for teaching your dog.

You don’t need to move your puppy’s body into the desired position, which can slow down the process. Once your puppy performs the simple command, click the clicker. You can use shorter clicks when they are getting close to the command and a long click for once they do the correct thing, followed by a treat.

Common Problems with Clicker Training a Puppy

When you first start puppy clicker training, there are a few problems that you may run into.

These are common mistakes people make or problems you may run into when clicker training your puppy:

  • Forgetting to praise your puppy. Puppies learn quicker when they also receive praise. Dogs love praise and affection from their owner. When your dog does do what you say, make sure to give them a reward and praise them.
  • Your puppy is not motivated by treats. Some dogs are not motivated by a treat. Clicker training most likely will not work for these dogs.
  • Your puppy is distracted. Puppies can easily get distracted. Clicker training your puppy, you will need to have your puppy’s complete attention. If your puppy is more interested in the leaves on the ground or someone else in the house, they will not learn as easily.
  • You don’t have time. Clicker training will take your time and patience. Some dogs are very quick learners, while others take time and a lot of patience. Do not give up on your dog. They will eventually learn the new tricks that you are trying to teach them.

No matter what, you will eventually face setbacks in training. Take some time and repeat the tricks your puppy has already learned then proceed with new tricks.

Final Thoughts

A clicker is a very valuable tool in the training process. When you are trying to train your dog, consider using a clicker for the training. This can make the process quicker and easier. With a little time and patience, you can have your new puppy trained to do many tricks.