Clicker training is a science-based way to communicate with your cat. It’s easier to learn than standard command-based training. You can clicker train any kind of cat, of any age
With insight and products designed to help you improve your training, you can start training your cat and interacting in ways you never thought possible
Fifteen Rules for Getting Started with the Clicker
by Karen Pryer
Don’t worry, at first, about getting rid of behavior you don’t like. Instead, start with some good things you want the cat to learn to do. Keep notes (the refrigerator door is a good place.) Jot down what the cat was doing when you started. Once a day or so, jot down what you have achieved with each behavior. You will be surprised at the progress! Reward YOURSELF for the cat’s improvements. Here are some simple tips to get you started.
Push and release the springy end of the clicker, making a two-toned click. Then treat. Keep the treats small. Use a delicious treat at first: little pieces of tuna, say – not a lump of kibble. Make it something special the cat will want to eat, you will get better results.
Click DURING the desired behavior, not after it is completed. The timing of the click is crucial. Don’t be dismayed if your cat stops the behavior when it hears the click. The click ends the behavior. Give the treat after that; the timing of the treat is not important, the click is.
Click when the cat does something you like. Choose something easy at first, that the cat is likely to do on its own. (Ideas: sit; come toward you; touch your hand with its nose; go through a door; walk next to you.)
Click once (in-out) If you want to express special enthusiasm, increase the number of treats, not the number of clicks.
Fix bad behavior by clicking good behavior.
Keep practice sessions short. Much more is learned in three sessions of five minutes each than in an hour of boring repetition. You can get noticeable results, and teach your cat many new things, by fitting a few clicks a day here and there in your normal routine.
Click for voluntary (or accidental) movements toward your goal. You may coax or lure the cat into a movement or position, but don’t push, pull, or hold them, never force the action.
Don’t wait for the “whole picture” or the perfect behavior. Click and treat for small movements in the right direction. You want the cat to sit, and it starts to crouch in back: click. You want it to come when called, and it takes a few steps your way: click.
Keep raising your goal. As soon as you have a good response – when the cat is voluntarily lying down, coming toward you, or sitting repeatedly – start asking for more. Wait a few beats, until the cat stays down a little longer, comes a little further, sits a little faster. Then click. This is called “shaping” a behavior.
When the cat has learned to do something for clicks, it will begin showing you the behavior spontaneously, trying to get you to click. Now is the time to begin offering a cue, such as a word or a hand signal. Start clicking for that behavior if it happens during or after the cue. Start ignoring that behavior when the cue wasn’t given.
Don’t order the cat around; clicker training is not command-based. If your cat does not respond to a cue, it is not “disobeying,” it just hasn’t learned the cue completely. Find more ways to cue it and click it for the desired behavior, in easier circumstances.
Carry a clicker and “catch” cute behaviors like cocking the head, squinting their eyes, or rolling over. You can click for many different behaviors, whenever you happen to notice them, without confusing your cat. If you have more than one cat, separate them for training, and let them take turns.
If you get frustrated and angry, put the clicker away. Don’t mix correction training with clicker training; you will lose the cat’s confidence in the clicker and perhaps in you.
If you are not making progress with a particular behavior, you are probably clicking too late. Accurate timing is important. Get someone else to watch you, and perhaps to click for you, a few times.
Above all, have fun. Clicker-training is a wonderful way to enrich your relation-ship with your pet.