1. Click = Reward. Every click should be followed by a treat or some other kind of reward. Clicking without reinforcing will desensitize your dog to the clicker. Even if you click accidentally, your dog should get rewarded.
2. Click only once. If you want to show your dog that they have done something really wonderful, click once and give two, three, or more treats. Several small treats given rapidly in succession are more meaningful to your dog than one big treat. Chasing a ball, playing tug, or play with other dogs can also be used after the click if your dog particularly enjoys these activities. When you give many treats or a favorite reward this is called a JACKPOT.
3. Click means “Great Job”. Click whenever your dog is doing something that you like. This doesn’t only have to be while training. If you like that your dog is playing independently with a toy, click and play with him so that he understands that you like it when he is busy by himself.
4. Always click before reaching for the treat. The click must predict that the reward has been earned. If you reach for the treat before clicking your dog will anticipate that the reinforcement has been earned because of your hand movement. You want your dog to understand that the click is what predicts the reinforcement. If reinforcement happens before the sound of the click, the dog will quickly learn to ignore the click because the reinforcement is not contingent on hearing the sound first.
5. It is important to click and treat often in the beginning. Your dog needs lots of feedback about what behavior you like. In the first few weeks you cannot click too often. (Later on you will wean your dog off of the clicker and food treats.)
6. Click ends the behavior. When you click, the exercise is over, so the dog is free to move. Over time your dog may learn to continue offering the behavior after the click (such as continuing to heel or staying in a sit position), but this is his choice.
7. Treat for position. Where you deliver the treat can speed up training significantly. If you are training your dog to lie down, click when your dog is in the position that you like, and then (even if your dog stands up) make the effort to deliver the treat on the ground. If you are teaching your dog to walk on a loose leash, click when the leash is loose, and deliver the treat by your leg.
8. The click is not a cue. The click does not tell your dog to do something; it is a signal to the dog that he’s doing the right thing at that moment. Do not use the click to get your dog’s attention.
9. The clicker is not a Remote Control. It is not necessary or even desirable to point the clicker at your dog. The clicker will work just as well if held in your pocket or behind your back.
10. Be prepared. Be prepared for the dog to suddenly “get it” and reinforce this leap in learning with a jackpot (see Rule #2).
11. Be quiet, and speak in a normal conversational tone and volume. In the beginning stages of training, be quiet and let your dog figure things out. Once you’re ready to add a cue, remember that dogs hear much better than we do. Therefore it is not necessary to raise your voice when speaking to your dog. Furthermore, if your train your dog to respond to cues that are given loudly or harshly, you will train your dog to only listen to cues when given in this fashion. Instead train your dog to listen to your whispers.