How to Clicker Train Your Dog

So what’s the point of clicker training? Don’t you get dependent on a device to get your pet to do anything?

Great questions!

Here is how to clicker train your dog.

The point of clicker training is to get your dog’s attention in a consistent fashion, which can make training go faster. You don’t become dependent on the device, because over time, your dog will recognize your commands, regardless of whether you’re using the clicker or not. Eventually, you can stop using the clicker altogether.

1. Choose your signal.

The first step is to choose the signal you will use to inform your pet that a command has been given and there’s a potential for treats to be earned.

You can buy an inexpensive clicker, or you can simply choose a different sound, like snapping your fingers, tapping your foot, or clicking your tongue.

See what works best at getting your dog’s attention.

The most important part of any training method is that you’re consistent, so see what works and stick to it in order to clicker train your dog successfully.

2. Choose a reward.

To start, it helps immensely to hold your dog’s attention if you use a mixture of treats and praise. Choose the most delicious treat in the world to your dog.

Then over time, as your dog begins to respond reliably to commands, you can phase out the treats and rely on praise alone.

3. Choose consistent commands.

There’s the word “consistent” again. To get any training to stick, you need to be steadfast in your methods. When it comes to commands, keep them to one or two words, such as “Sit,” “Stay,” “Heel,” and “Come.”

Make a list of commands to practice with your dog so you remember which commands you chose. Don’t make your dog think too hard about what you’re saying; it’s enough to learn how to obey!

4. Watch your dog’s attention level.

Stick to regular meal times. You want to keep make sure your dog isn’t starving when it’s time to train, or their energy will be drained and they won’t be able to focus as well.

As training progresses and your dog earns treats, they will feel fuller and they won’t be as motivated to work for your rewards.

When going about clicker train your dog keep sessions focused and short so your dog doesn’t get stuffed, bored, and burned out on training.

Do you have any stories or tips to share about training your dog? Let us know in the comments, and consider signing up for PetPlus,a benefit program for pet owners that provides member-only access to medications at wholesale prices, plus discounts on food, supplies, vet visits, boarding, and more.

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6 Tips for a Stress-Free Vet Visit

It’s the rare pet who actually enjoys a trip to the vet. In fact, such an animal is probably rarer than a unicorn. However, there are ways to make trips to the vet slightly more pleasant for everyone, although it will take a little more work and foresight to pave the way for a smooth vet visit.

1. Touch your pet like a vet would.

One of the reasons vet visits are so startling to pets is that the vet touches them in ways and places they aren’t accustomed to. You can help your pet feel comfortable with these unusual methods of touching by playing doctor and rehearsing a veterinary exam.

Your vet will examine your pet from head to tail, and may palpate – or gently press down using the hands – different areas of your pet’s body, like the neck and the belly. Lift up your pet’s tail, and run your hands all over your pet, including the feet and nails.

RELATED STORY: The Ever-Important Dog Physical Exam

2. Don’t get nervous.

Be aware of you own energy, because your pet can feed off your anxiety. If you realize you feel nervous on the day of the vet visit, be sure to take some deep, cleansing breaths to lower your heart rate. Stick to your regular routine, including walks, which will help to burn off that nervous energy.

3. Use a calming collar.

If your pet seems to really panic at the idea of a trip to the vet, then consider purchasing a calming collar for your cat or your dog. The soothing scents of chamomile and lavender may help to comfort and relax your pet.

RELATED STORY: How To Know If Your Dog Has Anxiety

4. Don’t use a carrier only for vet visits.

If your pet only sees the inside of the carrier when it’s time for the vet, then that little box is going to represent a cage of panic and grief for your animal. If you use a carrier at home as a safe place for your pet to snuggle and nap, then it won’t seem like such a big, stressful deal to hop in the carrier for transportation to the vet.

5. Practice car rides for other fun reasons.

Likewise, if your pet only rides in the car on the way to the vet, it’s going to be a very long car ride for both of you. Try taking your pet on other excursions in the car, for example, to drive your dog to a meadow for a hike.

RELATED STORY: 5 Steps To A Safe Drive With Your Dog

6. Use treats strategically.

If your cat enjoys catnip, then plan on using it strategically, because the effect only lasts about 5 to 15 minutes. Figure out the worst part of the vet visit for you; is it coaxing your cat into the carrier, or the part where you open the carrier for the vet? Use your kitty treats or catnip with those circumstances in mind to keep the effectiveness high.

Likewise, if you know you have a visit to the vet approaching, get a little stingy with your treats for your dog until it’s ‘go time’ for maximum effect. A dog with a belly that’s already loaded with treats isn’t going to be too interested in your bribery.

How do you keep your pet calm for a vet visit? Let us know by leaving a comment below! Sign up for PetPlus and save up to 75% on your pet’s medications plus discounts on boarding, supplies, and more. 

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DNA Testing Forces People to Clean Up After Their Dogs

Sick of seeing dog waste on the sidewalk and not knowing who to blame? Well, thanks to a unique way of implementing DNA testing, those days may soon be behind us.

RELATED STORY: Is Your Dog Eating Poop?

Due to the mounting problem in parks and fields around Boulder, CO, a councilwoman brought up the bright idea of taking DNA samples of every dog in the city, making it possible to track down every defecatory deviant and mail their handler a fine for failing to clean up after them. And while it has not yet been implemented, her idea has received no small amount of buzz.

However, this ingenious solution is not entirely original. In a number of private condominiums and apartment complexes around the world, the company known as PooPrints has been implementing their doggy DNA testing to help make these residencies a cleaner place to live. Barbra Kansky, the owner of a 398 unit condo, started using the the PooPrints system, and was floored by the results.

“We [used to] call or send a letter and that dog owner would say: ‘Prove it,’” said Kansky.

Well, now they can!

And while some people living in PooPrints communities are being caught for not cleaning up their dog’s messes, the system seems to work most effectively as a deterrent. Residents don’t want to be fingered as an inconsiderate pet parent, so almost everyone starts picking up after their dog.

RELATED STORY: How to Potty Train Basset Hounds

How It Works

Implementing the PooPrints system is as simple as 1,2,3.

1. Register the DNA of all the dogs in the community with a cheek swab
2. Match their cheek DNA with a fecal sample
3. Keep the data on record and you are all set

And then, the next time you see a forgotten mess, take a quick sample before chucking it in the bin and send it off to the lab. In a few days you will have a match. From there it is just a matter of putting a fine in the culprit’s mailbox, and you are done!

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Simple Tips to Make The Most Out of Your Pets Mealtime

When your pets mealtime rolls around, many pet parents follow a similar routine: scoop out the food, put the food in a bowl, place the bowl on the floor, and let Fido or Boots have at it. The entire process is usually over in a matter of minutes.

But what if feeding time was more than just a meal? Lots of pet parents use their pet’s dinner hour as an opportunity to teach or reinforce commands. Others use stuffed puzzle toys to slow down speed eaters, provide mental stimulation, zap energy, and satiate their pet’s prey drive.

So how can you make the most of your pet’s mealtime? Read on to learn some tips.

Tip #1: Turn Mealtime Into Training Time

Pets MealTime

Many pet parents think that training should only happen at a designated time, and that the only appropriate reward for a job well done is a special treat. In reality, training can happen anywhere at any time, and a hungry pet will usually respond just as well to their normal food as they will to a delicacy.

You can feed your pet their entire meal by hand while teaching or reinforcing commands like sit, stay, lie down, and heel. When your pet performs, offer them a few pieces of kibble. For safety commands that you really want to reinforce (like come and “watch me”), offer a larger handful (this is sometimes referred to as a “jackpot”).

Training your pet with their food not only reinforces important commands and stretches out feeding time (which can help with digestion), it also provides your pet with daily mental stimulation, which can improve their behavior.

RELATED STORY: Teaching Your Dog Basic Commands

Tip #2: Stuff Puzzle Toys With Your Pet’s Portion

Puzzle toys come in all shapes and sizes. Some are complex games and others look like regular toys, but have small openings where treats or food can be stuffed. You can also make your own puzzle toy at home; for example, a tennis ball with a flap cut into it.

Puzzle toys make your pet problem solve in order to reach a treat or food. Some puzzle games require a pet to move game pieces around to release a morsel. Other puzzle toys simply need to be dropped, nudged, or swatted to shake a piece of food free.

Feeding your pet their food using puzzle toys not only slows down eating and extends meal time (some pets are occupied for 20 minutes or more!), it also provides mental stimulation, a bit of exercise, and will satisfy a pet’s desire to “hunt” for their food.

If your have a large dog or large cat who eats large portions, you can buy or make several puzzle toys and divide the portion between them.

Leave a comment and let us know how you make the most of your pet’s mealtime! 

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