Do I have to use a clicker?
Well, no you don't. But I have found that they certainly speed up the training and make it more fun! The clicker is just so much more precise, and since you are using it to communicate with your dog, that precision makes everything so very much clearer to him. I call it the Dog-Human translator. But, you can try just using a word (which is refered to as a "bridge word") such as "Yes!" instead. For best results - use both! I know that although I primarily train with a clicker, I certainly still use my bridge word when my clicker isn't handy. Of your dog seems frightened by the click sound, muffle it so it's not as loud. You can also order the iClick from Karen Pryor's site - it has a much softer click (and is easily to handle as well).
When to Start Training
Right now! These methods are so gentle, you can start with that 8 week old puppy you just brought home. Just remember that a young puppy is an infant - don't expect too much, especially with the stay. Work for just a few minutes at a time and takes lots of play breaks. You'll find that teaching the attention work that early will do amazing things for your relationship! And it's never too early to work on not jumping up.
Who Should Train
Everyone in the family! That is one of the best features of these techniques. They don't require that the dog see the trainer as dominant in the pack.
And... if someone in the family messes up while training positively, the only damage is usually that the dog might take a bit longer to learn than otherwise. Only a person getting physically nasty will do real damage to the learning. Effort should be made, however, to have everyone be as consistent as possible. And although all family members can be trainers, it is best to have only one working with the dog at a time. Other people can hold the leash or stand nearby until it is their turn!
COLLARS - You actually don't need any collar at all for this training. But, you will of course need one when you venture outside of the house with your dog for walks or training. We don't use any form of choke collar, chain or nylon. We prefer dogs wear a martingale style collar, such as the Premier Collar, which is a buckle collar with an extra loop to which the leash attaches. It will tighten if the dog tries to slip out of it, but only to the circumference of the dog's neck. It doesn't choke, but dogs can't slip out of them if they are properly fitted. Many people train using just their regular buckle collars.
old Teddy models her Premier
A properly fitted martingale collar
LEASHES - A 4-6' foot leash is helpful to keep the dog with you until the attention work is accomplished. You will probably find a thin one made of cotton to be the most comfortable to use. However, you will likely find that you don't use a leash for much of the training (assuming you are inside or in a safe, enclosed area, that is!).
CLICKER - If you would like the precision & excitement of a clicker, check your local pet supply store (if you don't see them be sure to ask - the more requests they get the more likely they are to start stocking them) or you can order one from the link on right. They cost about $2. You might want to get one with a hole through which you can put a key ring.
A clicker worn with a wrist coil
TREATS - As your primary reinforcer in the beginning, the type of treats you choose is crucial! We have found that most commercial dog treats (especially those available at your local grocery store) are NOT going to be good enough to hold your dog's interest for long. One super commercial product is the Oinker Roll. It's all natural, almost solid meat, and dogs love it. It can be ordered from .
Otherwise, at Greenwood, we use "human" food as treats. Why? Because it is far healthier and far tastier. Pieces of hot dogs, cheese (cheese sticks are really great & easy to use), roast beef (ask your butcher for deli ends - much cheaper), leftover steak, pizza crust... use your imagination & see what you dog REALLY loves! And did you know that prior to the 1930's there was no such thing as commercial "dog food"? Please understand that your dog has no idea if something is considered "human" food vs "dog" food. Your dog will not start begging at the table unless you start feeding them for doing so.
If your dog doesn't seem that interested in your treats, try some different ones, and try practicing before your dog has had his dinner. Actually, you can feed him his entire dinner a bit at a time while practicing your exercises. Regular kibble is usually pretty low on the taste scale, however, so don't bother with it when you're practicing around distractions.
Using a variety of treats is essential. Even the best treat can get old quickly. Save the best tasting treats for teaching & practicing the recall and for when you are working around distractions.
Will my dog be dependent on seeing a treat before responding to me?
No, not if you follow the instructions carefully. A major component of these lessons is the concept of becoming variable with your reinforcements after your dog has shown he understands a particular step. Properly done, that will ensure that your pup doesn't become food dependent. Although I give my grown dogs treats fairly often, I certainly don't have treats with me all of the time! And yet my dogs do respond to my commands quite reliably.
Looking for a Clicker Trainer?
More & more trainers are switching over to this way of training as they see the magic for themselves. To find one in your area, try these sites: Clicker Teachers (a list by state & country) and The Association of Pet Dog Trainers. The APDT includes many types of trainers, some still using force methods, so be sure to research any trainer you find through them carefully. They are currently working on a method of certification which should make it easier to identify the primarily positive reinforcement trainers. I always recommend observing any school you are considering - you want to find out how the owners are treated as well as their dogs! Please do as much research as you can to determine whether the training is effective as well as humane.
Other Clicker Training Sites
Please take the time to check out these other wonderful sites - the first few of which were created by the people who started this training revolution!
Karen Pryor's site
Gary Wilkes - Clicker Training for Dogs
Companion Web Site to Click-L
Yes, you may print out these lessons!
The entire purpose of this site to "spread the word" about this type of training and I fully expect people to print out the information so that they can more easily use it. Most of the lessons have a link at the top so you can download a pdf that will be easier to print. Those pdf documents are not always as up-to-date as what's on the Web page, though. I get to them when I can...
You are also welcome & encouraged to make copies to distribute to whomever you feel could benefit by it. I ask only that you: 1) use the lessons for NON-PROFIT use only, 2) e-mail me and let me know, 3) keep my name & Greenwood Dog Training School with each lesson, and 4) consider buying supplies through my affiliates links and make a donation to the site.
back to top
Mary Woodward & Susan Greenholt
Greenwood Dog Training School
using positive methods to teach people how to teach their pets!
last updated 02/28/09
site created & maintained by Mary Woodward
copyright © 2002 Mary Woodward
All Rights Reserved