The Basics of Dog Clicker Training
So your Great Dane is pretty well behaved and all those corrective training collars look like medieval torture devices. You are not alone, many dog lovers feel the same and would much rather give their pooch a reward rather than a hard correction. Armed with a clicker and a dog treat, training your Great Dane will be a pleasant experience for both of you. This is what we call the dog clicker training method of canine obedience.
With dog clicker training and positive reinforcement, you can be successful training your Great Dane!
Let's Get Started
The clicker could be anything that makes a "click" but it's best to purchase an actual dog training clicker from your local pet supply. The training clicker makes a distinctive loud consistent sound that your Great Dane will soon associate with specific actions. As for the treats, a dog treat should be something that's real tasty and keeps your Great Dane motivated. Things like small pieces of chicken, beef, or a hot dog work quite well with dog clicker training. Great, you have your clicker and your dogs favorite treats. What are we waiting for? Let's get to dog training!
TIP: An appropriate "dog treat" can be food, a favorite toy, or something your Great Dane goes absolutely nuts for.
Conditioning Your Dog to Understand the "Click" (Charging the Clicker)
Don't worry about commands yet, we will add them a little later. Our plan is to take a "snap shot" of a desired action or behavior, the clicker is our camera. For instance, you see the dog sit (no command, on it's own), take a snap shot, "click" then give your Dane her reward. Dog clicker training begins with conditioning and your watchful eye. Monitor your Dane throughout the day, when she does something good like sit, or lie down, give a click and reward her.
This is the basic technique for conditioning your dog to the clicker. Basics of dog clicker training are click, reward and praise. Your Great Dane will soon associate a good deed with the click and reward. Unknowingly, she is being conditioned to the "click", and positive consequences for performing an acceptable action. That wasn't hard! You have now conditioned your Great Dane that praises and rewards are the result of good behavior. Remember, see her do something nice, click and reward. This is the basic technique of dog clicker training.
Putting it All Together
OK, we're on the right track so lets talk about commands. Your Great Dane doesn't even realize she has been conditioned by your observations, clicks and rewards yet she has. If you have been clicking when she sits, by now I'd bet if you give a click, your dog sits down, try it:) Great, now lets add a command, say "down" but don't "click", she's giving you a confused look isn't she? Don't worry ignore her, after 30 seconds or so, try again. Keep it up, repeat as necessary until finally, and trust me it will happen, she lies down. Give the click, treat, and reward here with praises for being such a good girl, not that isn't hard is it?
Be careful not to repeat a command, say it once and remember, a simple one-word command is key to success when dog clicker training. If you're trying a new command and you get a confused looking dog that just stands there, remember to ignore her, don't pay attention to un-cued behaviors. You may find it necessary with some commands to lure your dog into position. After all, a dog won't understand what your saying until they are conditioned to the word. If you've tried and repeated "down" for instance and have made zero progress, use a dog treat to lure her into the down position. Once she is down, one click, dog treat/ reward, and mega praises.
TIP: Dog clicker training does work, be sure to only use the clicker for training! Letting kids or others play around with the clicker will lessen its effectiveness as a training tool. It's best to keep the clicker training sessions short, usually 5 to 10 minutes are adequate.
Weaning Her Away From the Clicker
Now that your Great Dane has learned a certain command, you can begin to wean her away from the clicker, and eventually the dog treat or reward. This is true for each individual command. When teaching a new command, start with dog clicker training, then slowly wean her from the click.
From time to time you may use the clicker to reinforce commands that have weakened. Start by only offering reward maybe 2 out of three times she performs the command. After a while begin to offer rewards less, but be sure to keep the positive praises. Eventually you can tone down the praises also, make them less exuberant and calmer, like a friendly "good girl" and a soft pat on the back.
Over time and soon, your Dane will obey you in anticipation of a treat even if only a few treats throughout the day. The same goes for the clicker, slowly wean your dog from the click and she will soon be responding only to your voice. Don't worry, your not going to live your life with a clicker and bag full of treats in your pocket:) Your Great Dane will soon be conditioned and simply want to behave in anticipation of a possible reward in the near future.
For a Great Dane with a bad habit, such as jumping up at the door when the bell rings, redirection is the key. Lets say you see an approaching visitor, get ready with the clicker and perform a sit as usual, try to time it the exact moment the doorbell rings. This redirection technique will teach your Dane it is good to sit when the doorbell rings.
Things to Remember
As with any training method, consistency and repetition is key to success with dog clicker training. Watch your dog's actions, timing of the click is important, along with immediate reward and lots of praise. Dog clicker training is conditioning the dog to repeat actions for a reward and sometimes a dog with behavior problems or bad behavior won't be a good clicker training candidate.
This is a basic overview of the dog clicker training method, give it a try. After all, learning to communicate with your Great Dane companion can be great fun. We wish you the best and hope your dog training goes great. Have fun with it and don't forget to stock up on dog treats:)