The first thing you need is a “clicker,” a little metal noisemaker that you can get in just about any pet store or online. The traditional clicker is a little square plastic box with a metal piece inside, but there are other clicker shapes on the market too, some of which are more ergonomic. I like the clickers that have a little tab attached so that I can keep one on my key chain and one attached to a belt loop when I’m training. I often keep one on my wrist with a stretchy wristband, and hang others in various places around the house. You can also get a clicker with a small elastic tab on one end that allows you to keep it snugly attached to a finger – this way you won’t lose it and you’ll always be “quick with the click.”
The clicker is a great “marker” for desired behaviors. It’s highly audible, so you can use it in a noisy place and the puppy will still be able to hear it, unlike voices which can get lost in the din of a crowd. The clicker is also an unsympathetic sound. The sound of the clicker has no gender, age, or inflection. It sounds the same time after time, so the sound won’t confuse the puppy – the click always means “Good dog! Now you get a treat!” The clicker also prevents the owner/trainer from feeling silly about gushing with praise in public. Some people get embarrassed by the tone required for proper praise, which is very enthusiastic and, frankly, high-pitched and goofy. The clicker is also a dead-on marker for a behavior, unlike “good boy!” which takes much longer. If you don’t want to have to learn to use the clicker (which is pretty easy, I promise), you can also make a clicking sound with your mouth, like you’re asking a horse to giddy-up. If you don’t have a clicker handy, you can always click a pen with push-down top or a bottle cap that has a pop-up on the top (the kind with the little bubble top that indicates if the bottle has been opened or not).