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I wanted to incorporate a clicker into my dog's training. I gave him his favorite training treat while I used the clicker to get him use to it and the fact that it meant good things but after just a few times he started to turn his head and not take the treat (I was clicking it as he took the treat). I then decided to try it with playing instead and see how that went. I gave him the toy and would play with him with lots of praise, pets and a click but he dropped the toy and became sheepish like he did something wrong but I was praising him. Is there a problem with what I'm doing or is the clicker just something that won't work for him? He is almost 2, Yorkie/Maltipoo mix.
 

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Some dogs do not like the sound of the clicker. I am not saying that is the case here, but you can consider it. If you think your dog is afraid of the click, switch to a marker word. I use "Yes!" said short, enthusiastically and not really loud.

You click, and then treat to load the clicker. How many times are you doing this to "load" the clicker? With a dog who has never done this before, the first time is around 20 clicks followed by a treat reward. The dog NEEDS to be hungry. No food before training. It you have to skip a meal or two to get him interested that is fine. In a dog this small you may want all his food to be from training.

The other thing is duration of any training set. Even in a conditioned dog, the actual training set is very short. I would say 3 minutes.. maybe less if the dog loses interest. Then you break off and do something else for 5 minutes before returning to any training. Total session with breaks? 15-20 minutes tops. Use a timer.

There is another thing in this (since I am hearing you say "sheepish"). You may be doing too much. Too much praise, too much movement, too loud etc. I do not know (again you have to think about how you are behaving). IF you are getting frustrated, then you have to stop. The dog can tell you are frustrated and will stop wanting to work. Don't have a schedule (like you need to get this done now because you have dinner on the stove!).

Last, in free shaping you let the dog alone. No words. Say you want him to put his front feet on a small box... You shape it incrementally. If he looks at the box, you click and then feed the treat at the box (where you want the behavior to happen). As he associates the box with the reward he will do more and more interaction with the box and you mark the behavior and feed at the box. Again, I do not know what you are doing (and you may already being doing this).

I start my dogs with a marker word (or click) on simple focus. You look at me, I click and reward at me. Focus is my first clicker game and I need that for everything else so I want that solid and I want to be interesting to the dog.

I hope this helps a little. You may need to fill in a lot and ask more questions.
 

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It could be that the clicker you are using is too loud,. Some dogs just don't like a loud clicker. Even my two, who are very clicker savvy, don't enjoy a loud box clicker right in their ear. A button clicker is usually softer in tone and volume than a box clicker. I've know people to actually start off using a ball point pen for dogs who are really sensitive to a clicker. Some people I know use a tongue click. You could always use a verbal mark instead, but a clicker tends to be faster and cleaner.

Also, the mark (click, tongue click, "yes", whatever) needs to predict the treat, meaning that the sequence should go behavior-mark-reward. "Loading" the clicker isn't a necessary step, although a lot of dogs like it, but again, the sequence would be click-treat--click-treat--click-treat.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thank you for the feedback. You might be right about the clicker. I just grapped a pen and he was curious about the sound instead of having a seemingly bad reaction like with the clicker.
 
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