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Australian Shepherd Clicker Training – Getting Started

Positive reinforcement equates to eagerness when the clicker comes out.

Basic obedience class was fun and simple enough, but the real training addiction did not set in with Trooper until he and I started doing clicker training.  The reason this small tool was so invaluable was because it created a never-changing signal noise to mark desired behavior.  And work dogs love understanding what their lead dog (you, the owner) desires.  Clicker training is easy to learn for both the dog and owner and create strong, lasting associations.  For more background research prior to starting australian shepherd clicker training, a great article that discusses Aussie temperament and training needs can be found here.


Australian Shepherd Clicker Training – Tools needed:

Stewart dog treats are pure liver, so no preservatives and highly motivating to dogs.

When you first start clicker training, you only need a few tools – a clicker and a treat bag (see Training Tools for recommendations).  You do not have to use treats as a reward, especially if your dog is overweight or responds better to a different stimulus.  Other options include using a favorite toy or activity as the ‘reward’ when the behavior is exhibited.  I prefer to use small training treats because the reward period of time is much shorter than taking a quick break to play and it allows us to move on quickly to the next activity.

I try to be aware of how much Trooper eats on a regular basis and decrease the amount of his breakfast or dinner by the amount of training treats he receives.  Or even better, try using their breakfast or dinner as the ‘treats’ for the training session.  It will keep them earning their meals.


Training environment:

The best training environment is distraction-free (in the early training period; distractions will be good later on when you are testing your dog’s focus and skill set in a variety of environments).  Additionally, using the same training space/room for all training sessions can help your dog recognize that you are about to train and cause them to more readily turn on focus mode.  Remove any distracting toys or objects that are not relevant to what you are working on.


Getting started – the clicker equals positive reinforcement:

Clickers can be fancy or simple – this one has a target stick built into it, which we’ll discuss later on.

The first thing step is teaching your dog the meaning and associations of the clicker.  The best way to start this is with no command, followed by simple requests that your dog really enjoys or is already naturally good at.

Place yourself in front of your dog and press the clicker.  Your dog will likely respond in some way (i.e. head tilt, sniffing the clicker, etc).  Some dogs are sensitive to certain clicker sounds, so if your dog acts scared or angry, you might consider a different clicker sound.

After pressing the clicker, immediately reward your dog with a treat (or play session, etc).  Do this ten times before the first few training sessions – this will teach your dog that a click sound is immediately followed by something good.

The next step is to associate desirable behavior with a clicker.  Then, your dog will understand that desirable behavior = reward and therefore will want to show you that behavior.


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