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Clicker Training Guide

What is clicker training?
Clicker training is a training method based upon operant conditioning principals. The method uses almost entirely positive reinforcement. There is no physical compulsion or corrections whatsoever. The dog learns that the sound of the clicker indicates a reward (treat) is forthcoming and so performs to "cause" the clicker to sound.

Clickers are available
at most pet stores.

Okay, so what is a clicker?
A standard clicker is a small rectangular device made of plastic. There is a small metalic plate inside that can pressed to create a loud "click" sound.

Clickers can be purchased from various places including most pet stores and several places online.

How do I get started?
The key to success with clicker training is to discover the reinforcers that work best for your Bulldog. A reinforcer is a reward for behavior that makes the behavior more likely to occur in the future. Choosing the right reinforcer can make all the difference in training - especially as you progress to more and more challenging lessons.

What does your Bullie really like? Is it certain toys, going for walks, butt scratches, petting, praise? These can all be used, but for early training one of the most convenient and best things to use is food reinforcement. You'll be coupling this with praise and other reinforcers as you and your Bulldog progress through training.

Tips for choosing a food reinforcer
Since Bullies have very different personalities and preferences, what works as a reinforcer for one may not work well for another Bulldog. Even though most Bulldogs like food reinforcers, there are still some guidelines that you should followed when choosing initial and future reinforcers. Good food treats for use in clicker training should be:

Training Lesson #1: Introducing the Clicker

For clicker training lessons to be successful, your Bulldog must learn what happens when he hears the clicker. In this lesson you will be creating the foundation that will help you be successful with your training.

When you have finished this lesson, your Bullie should look to you expecting a treat, when you unexpectedly click. She may even come running from across the room.

Set aside some time to begin teaching your Bulldog about the clicker and the good things that happen when she hears it. We recommend that you consider beginning at a normal mealtime. This way your Bullie will be motivated by hunger and will probably learn much quicker. You may even be able to use her kibble as a reward.

Hold the clicker in one hand and a treat in the other. Click and immediately provide a treat. You should probably add some loud excited praise such as "Good girl!" Wait for a few seconds and repeat the process. Do this at least 10 times.

The key to success at this stage is timing. The clicking must occur immediately after a desired behavior. It may not seem important at this point but you must be very careful about when you click. For example, if you click while your Bullie is jumping on you to take treat from your hand, you are reinforcing the behavior of jumping up. As you'll recall, reinforcing a behavior makes the behavior more likely to occur in the future. In the case of jumping up, you should click and treat once your Bulldog has gotten off you and is waiting quietly.

Practice this lesson spread over 2 or 3 sessions, with 10-15 clicks, per day until the goal is reached. As you work through this lesson, make small changes to the presentation. For example vary the length of time from when you click to the time a treat is given. You can also vary the presence of verbal praise along with the treat. That is sometimes include the praise and sometimes be silent while treating. Try holding your sessions in different areas of the house with various distractions present such as other people.

Once your Bullie is consistently responding to the clicker, move on to lesson 2.

Training Lesson #2: Building Attention

To be successful in future lessons, it is important that your Bullie learns to pay attention to you and to look to you for guidance.

The goal of this lesson is to have your Bullie look to you and pay attention to you. It sounds very simple, but it is a very important component of successful training.

You should work on this lesson for approximately 2-4 days. There are several separate components that you will work on during this stage of training:

  1. When you are with your Bulldog carefully watch his behavior. Should you notice him quietly giving you his attention, click and treat with lots of verbal praise.
  2. When he is with you, try speaking his name clearly once. It is best to start this when you are in a location where he normally gives you a lot of attention. Click and reward the instant he looks at your face. If he continues to look at you click and reward during this time. You should do this at least 5 times per day.

    Note: If you are having trouble getting your Bulldog to look directly at your face, you can use a treat held up to your eyes as a guide for your Bullie. Once he gets the idea you should stop holding up the treat.
  3. As your Bullie begins to understand what is going on, you will keep the treats hidden from him when you call his name. This way he will learn that he will still be rewarded for paying attention to you when you call him even if he can’t see a bag of treats. You must still reward when he does give you his attention however. You can start varying the reinforcement you give as necessary. Use petting and ear rubs in addition to treats if your Bulldog finds them rewarding.
  4. If your Bulldog does not look at you when call his name, do not keep repeating it. If you do and he eventually looks at you and your click, you are letting him know that he doesn't have to pay attention to you right away. After all he'll still be rewarded if he waits to look at you until you call his name the fourth time. In these cases, wait for at least a minute before trying again. You should also do something to make yourself very interesting to your Bullie - playing with a favorite toy is often helpful. Make sure that if he does look at you when you call his name this time that you give him a big reward - treat and lots of attention and praise.
  5. As you make progress, move your training sessions to situations that are more distracting for your Bullie such as having other people around, a loud TV, etc. If you find that your Bulldog is having trouble, go back to a less distracting location and train there again for a while.

Training Lesson #3: Coming Soon!