Clicker Training to Assist with Dog Training

Clicker training is quickly becoming a widely used tool to assist with dog training. The device makes a loud and distinctive click that helps to “mark” the desired behavior. This helps communicate to the dog exactly which behavior you want to encourage and speeds up the training process immensely. Clickers can be found at most pet supply stores and are inexpensive.

Step one: Load the clicker

Easily the easiest step in the clicker training process, you first have to “load” the clicker before you can start to use it in training. Grab your clicker, a bunch of small treats (or even kibble), your dog, and find a quiet space to begin. The first time you click, your dog’s attention will snap to you. Within a second of clicking, quickly reward your dog with a treat. Repeat the click-treat, click-treat, click-treat cycle. Eventually, your dog will begin to realize that the sound of the clicker means a treat is on its way.

Step two: Mark the desired behavior

Let’s say you’re teaching your dog to sit. Use a treat above the dog’s nose to lure her into a sitting position. As soon as her rear touches the ground, you click and then reward. This marks the sitting behavior and helps your dog understand that unless that behavior happens, there will not be a reward. This ability to communicate will speed up the training process immensely, as oftentimes, what slows it down is a failure to communicate effectively with our dogs.

Step three: Introduce a cue word

After your dog begins to smoothly perform the desired behavior with the lure, you can begin to introduce your cue word. Tell the dog the cue word, use the lure, click, then reward. After a few rounds of successful performance, only use the lure if necessary. Hopefully, your dog is beginning to associate the cue word with the desired behavior.

Once your pet grasps the basic concept of “click means treat, my owner clicks when I do this behavior, so therefore, I should do this to get a treat,” then the options for using a clicker in training are limitless! Clicker training isn’t just for dogs anymore either; you can even train your cat, parrot, rabbit, chicken, etc, using a simple clicker!

Clicker training tips:

  • Keep training sessions short, no more than 15-20 mins or your pet’s attention span will wane or they will become frustrated.
  • Try to end training sessions on a positive note to keep it fun for your pet.
  • Do not yell at or discipline your pet if they don’t perform the behavior you want them to do, remember it’s OUR fault for not communicating effectively, not theirs.
  • The “click” must happen at the exact moment they perform the desired behavior, timing is extremely important!
  • If they aren’t interested in the treats you’re offering them, up the value of the treat! Small pieces of cheese or hot dog make yummy and enticing training treats.