Pet Clicker Training: How-to Guide

8 January 2018

Clicker training is a simple and popular way to train your pup and reward good...

clicker training

Clicker training is a simple and popular way to train your pup and reward good behavior. It can be fun for both you and your dog and often produces quick and effective results. And as soon as your dog understands what the clicker is all about, you will be able to teach him all kinds of tricks. But before you start practicing with your dog, here’s a small introduction to clicker training. 

Introduce your dog to the clicker

A clicker is a small, handheld device with a tiny button. Before you can use the clicker for training purposes, you will need to introduce your dog to the clicker and the meaning of the clicker. Start out by holding a treat in one hand and the clicker in the other. Press down on the clicker once. When your dog turns to you at the sound of the click, immediately give him the treat. Since you probably have to practice this more than once, you will need a handful of treats. Vary the amount of time that you hold the treat in your hand before using the clicker. Then your dog cannot predict when the treat will come. If your dog tries to get the treat, keep your hand closed and wait until he loses interest in the treat before using the clicker again.

How to use the clicker

Method 1

One of the most popular methods of clicker training is to click each time your dog is in the act of good behavior (the “catching” method). As you catch your dog doing a good behavior that he’s already able to do on his own, you use the clicker. Imagine the clicker is a camera with which you “take a picture” of behaviors you like. For example, if you are clicking sits, click as your dog’s butt hits the floor, then deliver a treat. If your click is late, you missed the picture. Or, if your dog decides to lie down, click as soon as he lies down and immediately throw him a treat. Click as your dog sits or lies down, not after. Additionally, it is important to note that:

  • This method will only work when your dog already knows how to do the good behavior without being commanded to do so.
  • The clicker training will let your dog know that he is doing the right thing, which will encourage him to repeat the good behavior.

Method 2

If your dog is less trained, you can use the clicker at each small step of a new behavior (the “shaping” method). By using the clicker and reward at each small step towards a wanted behaviour, you are shaping the new behavior as a whole. For example, if you want to train your dog to go lie down in his bed, click and reward him as soon as he turns his body in the direction of the bed. You then also click and reward when he starts walking to the area of the bed, when he is in the bed, and when he is fully lying down.

  • By using the clicker and reward at each small step, you will be providing your dog with continual positive reinforcement as he is learning the new behavior. He will think the learning is fun and will probably perform the new behavior with eagerness.

Clicker-training is fun and effective, and one of the preferred methods of dog training.

Add commands

No matter what method you use, adding a dog command can be quite helpful. All you have to do is say the command and then wait for your dog to do the desired behavior. As soon as your pup does the behavior, click and reward him with a treat. But be aware that:

  • Your commands should be short and direct, like “sit” or “down.”
  • You should give the command before your dog does the behavior so that he knows to listen for your command and then respond to it.
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