When you first begin clicker training with your dog there is a very important procedure that you must complete. It is called ‘charging the clicker’, also known as ‘loading the clicker’. This should not be overlooked or missed out as it is the key part of clicker training that allows your dog to make the association between the click and reward.
In dog clicker training charging the clicker is the very first step you must take on the very first day you begin. It should then be repeated at the beginning of every session until your dog instinctively begins to react to the device and the noise it makes.
How to Charge Your Clicker
Charging or loading a clicker couldn’t be simpler. It only takes a minute or so and really gets your dog in the mind set for a clicker training session. There are two methods that people like to use, which I have set out below.
- Get your treats and clicker ready; being prepared makes clicker training much easier and fluid.
- In a quiet place without distraction click your clicker to get your dog’s attention. When they react give them a treat. Even if they don’t react give a treat.
- What until your dog have resumed whatever they were doing and not paying attention to you then click again and give them a reward.
- Repeat this 10 or so times and your dog should start to react to the clicker expecting a treat.
- Get your clicker and treats ready.
- Scatter a handful of treats on the ground near to your dog.
- As they take each treat from the ground and into their mouth, click your clicker.
- Either start with a few treats first, scattering more as they disappear, or use them all in one go. 10 or so treats will be sufficient.
By using either of these methods you are forming a strong association for your dog between the sound of the click and the immediate reward that follows. Without this put in place first clicker training will be pointless.
What Type of Treats Should I Use For Charging?
There are some who advise against using your dog’s dry food or kibble whilst clicker training. I agree with this for the main part of the training session; you want to keep your dog interested and motivated. For the main session use something they don’t get every day; a treat that they love and will work for.
However, for charging the clicker I just use my dog’s dry food. He eats most things and always responds well to clicker. As he is eating a lot of treats in one go I prefer to use something I have more of, then use the best treats for the actual training.
Some ideas for clicker training treats are:
- Chicken Roll – available in most supermarkets, chicken roll is a circular piece of processed chicken about 5” wide and 1” deep. It is pre-cut into very thin slices so you can cut it into 1” squares, each of which is made up of 10 or so slices. Each slice is a single reward; it is cheap and keeps in the fridge for a few days.
- Liver Cake – this is a great cake to make for your dog. Mine will do anything for a bit of liver cake. At the park he will often not come back to me the first time. However, with liver cake in my pocket I can’t get rid of him! Click here to get the recipe for dog liver cake.
- Cheese – be careful with cheese because although dogs love it, it is high in fat and should only be used in small quantities. Cesar Millan uses it in his TV shows but not as frequently as you would for clicker training, so keep the treats small and use in moderation.
How Long Does it Take to Charge a Clicker?
Charging or loading a clicker does not take long each time you do it. You should aim to use around 10 treats following a click each time. Keep it constant without long gaps between clicks and reward immediately.
Charging should be done at the beginning of your dog’s very first clicker training session and then at the beginning of every session following that. After a short time your dog will know what is coming as soon as they see that you have your clicker in hand and can smell the treats. At this stage, maybe after five or six sessions (depending on your dog’s development) you can miss out the charging stage and go straight into training.
You should know when charging is no longer required for every session, as you dog will always respond to a click and give all their attention to you. If you can make a click and your dog come to you or immediately responds positively, you are just about there. It won’t hurt to do some charging before a session every now and then to reinforce the click and reward association.
A tip for charging is to do it in different places; inside, outside, different rooms or parts of the garden and so on. This will ensure the association your dog makes between the click and reward is consistent and not only reliant on one environment.