Clicker Training Explained

What Is Clicker Training?

Clicker training is a unique way of communicating with your dog when they have performed the correct behaviour. The clicker is a small hand held device that makes a unique ‘clicking’ sound when it is pressed, and it is used to mark a specific behaviour from your dog.

This form of training is so diverse and unique that it is now used all around the world to train a variety of different animals.

How Does Clicker Training Work?

Clicker training is used in conjunction with positive reward based training, which means that an animal is rewarded every time they perform a wanted behaviour (such as a Sit).

To begin with your dog must be taught that every time the clicker is pressed, a tasty treat will follow. This enables your dog to understand that there is a link between the clicker and a reward. Training in this way provides your dog with immediate feedback that the behaviour they have just performed is the reason that they have been rewarded. It does not take long for dogs to make the connection between the behaviour and the clicker, and they begin to respond even quicker because they anticipate receiving a treat for a repeated behaviour.

What Are The Benefits of Clicker Training?

Clicker training mentally stimulates your dog by allowing him to think about what behaviour is being requested of him. Then once the behaviour is performed and he receives a click, he understands that this is the behaviour you want repeated. This process helps to increase confidence in the dog and the trainer.

Clicker training can be adapted to any situation, for example you can substitute a clicker for a flashlight to train dogs that are deaf. In this case the flash would represent the ‘click’ and would inform the dog that they are performing the correct behaviour. You can also substitute the clicker for a verbal marker word, such as ‘Yes’ or ‘Good’, and this would be the signal to your dog that he has performed the correct behaviour.

How Do I Introduce a Clicker to My Dog?

To enable your dog to begin to make the connection between the sound of the clicker and a treat, you must first perform something called ‘charging the clicker’. This exercise allows your dog to start associating the sound with a positive experience. 

 Place the clicker in one hand and have some tasty treats accessible to you.

 Click the clicker and toss a treat in your dog’s direction (you are not waiting for your dog to perform any exercise at this moment, you just want your dog to start pairing the sound with a treat).

 Continue to repeat this for the next few minutes. You should start to notice that your dog begins to watch the clicker, this means that they have paired the sound with a treat (if they could talk they would probably say “Hurry up and click so I can have a treat”).

 Once you have performed this exercise you must always produce a treat every time you click, if you stop then you will begin to weaken the clicker and it will lose it’s meaning.

The above steps can be used to introduce a flash light to a deaf dog, flash the light and toss a treat in your dogs direction, the concept is exactly the same.

Once you have successfully introduced the clicker to your dog, you can then begin to use it for training and shaping any behaviour you chose.

Clicker Rules

  Only ever click the clicker once for each behaviour.

 You must always keep your promise and reward your dog every time you click (even if it was by accident). 

 If your dog is startled or frightened by the sound of the clicker, then place the device inside a sock or tea towel to reduce the sharpness of it.