What Is Clicker Training For Dogs? Explained By A Trainer

Dog training has multiple ways to train, but one of the most effective is clicker training.

Bringing a dog into your life means signing up for lots of cuddles, loads of love, and a touch of chaos. And amid all that fun and wagging tails, you’ve got an important job to do – teach your four-legged friend some manners! 

Now, you might have heard about a ton of dog training techniques, and let’s face it, when we as new dog owners, it can be daunting. One of those ways is clicker training. Similar to marker training, dog clicker training takes advantage of classical conditioning (that one’s the experiment Pavlov did with the dog and the bell) to pair the sound of the clicker with a tasty treat. And it’s something dog trainers (namely Karen Pryor and Gary Wilkes) introduced in 1992 – but it became more popular across the 2000’s as we slowly started to leave dominance theory behind. 

In this guide, I want to give you an overview meets step-by-step guide you understand what clicker training is all about, why it’s ace at improving your dog’s behavior, and how to get started with it. We promise to keep it easy-peasy and fun so that you and your pup can enjoy this amazing journey with minimal hiccups. Ready? Then, let’s click our way into the exciting world of dog training using only positive reinforcement method!

clicker training can be really enjoyable for both you and your dog.

What Is A Clicker?

A clicker is a small plastic device that fits in the palm of your hand that we use to reward a desired action. It’s avail There’s a button that we press to get the clicker noise, and we use it with positive training methods to shape a new skill!

In a slightly more technical way; a clicker is an example of a secondary reinforcer! Where we associate the meaning of the click with the a high-value treat (aka a primary reinforcer) with desirable behavior! 

What is Clicker Training?

Clicker training? What on earth is that? If you’ve found yourself asking this question, no sweat – I’ve got you covered!

Clicker training is a super fun and sub-section or form positive reinforcement training method for our furry pals. At its core, it’s all about marking and rewarding good behavior. The ‘clicker’ part of clicker training is a tiny little gadget that makes a distinct ‘click’ sound. No rocket science here – you press it, it clicks!

So here’s how it works: every time your dog does something that deserves a pat on the back (like sitting down on command or giving you a paw), you ‘click’ at the exact moment they do it right. And right after that click, you offer a treat. Got it? ‘Click’ for ‘Yes, good job!’ and then a tasty little something as a reward.

Now, what’s the big deal with the clicker and why can’t you just say ‘Good boy’ or ‘Good girl’? Good point! Well, your dog hears you yakking away all the time (yep, even when you’re telling them about your terrible day at work or the annoying neighbor). The clicker, on the other hand, makes a unique sound that’s reserved for one thing only – marking the exact instant they’ve done something worth celebrating. It’s a super clear way of saying ‘That’s it, buddy! You’ve nailed it!’

The science behind this method is pretty neat, too. It’s based on the theory of ‘operant conditioning,’ coined by the psychologist B.F. Skinner. This theory suggests that behaviors followed by positive consequences are more likely to be repeated. And bam– that’s what clicker training does. By pairing the click with a reward, our doggos quickly learn that behavior, followed by the sound of the click, equals delicious treats! And just like that, they’re more keen to repeat these actions. Who would’ve thought, huh?

Now that you’ve got the basics of clicker training sorted, let’s move on to how you can become a clicker training superstar!

Note: Whilst clicker training is awesome: It’s also good to know, in a training context, it’s equally effective as using a marker word if your timing is good! 

the reward part of clicker training is not to be underestimated! Remember to pair the click (charge it!) with a High value treats or super fun play.

Benefits of Clicker Training for Dogs

You might be thinking, “So, why should I give clicker training a shot when there are plenty of other methods out there?” Well, that’s because clicker training has truckloads of benefits for both you and your dog – and it’s championships at being effective. Let’s take a peek at why it’s so great!

First and foremost, clicker training is super positive. There’s no scolding, no punishment – just heaps of praise and rewards. This method works by encouraging the behaviours you like, which means your fluffy friend will always be eager to learn. No more grumpy pup during training sessions – it’s all high-fives and tail wagging!

The clicker also makes communication clearer. Remember how we said the unique clicking noise is reserved just for marking good behaviour? That’s why it cuts through ambiguity like a hot knife through butter. With the clicker, you’re leaving no room for confusion – your furry pal knows exactly what they’re being treated for.

Another perk is that clicker training can speed up the learning process. Because the clicking noise allows you to mark behaviours in real-time, your dog learns instantly what they’re doing right. After some training sessions, you might find your dog repeats the correct behaviour even faster. Before you know it, they’ll be doing tricks left, right, and center!

kids can clicker train too! It can be really great for kids who like a step by step process – and you can do the work of pre-charging the clicker too.

Moreover, clicker training boosts your doggo’s confidence. It can turn a shy pup into an eager beaver who’s always ready to learn new things. It’s all about making them feel good for their achievements. Plus, the rewards give them the motivation to give things a shot and have fun in the process.

Last but not least, clicker training isn’t just beneficial for dogs – it’s a win for their humans, too! It makes the training process enjoyable and less stressful. With your clear and consistent communication, not only does your dog learn quicker, but the bond you share becomes stronger, too.

In short, clicker training is a super effective method that injects fun, positivity, and rapid learning into your dog training sessions. Now, who wouldn’t want that?

Tips and Techniques for Successful Clicker Training

Ready to jump into the clicker training game? Here’s the whole process in small steps!

How to Start Clicker Training

Get a Clicker and Treats: The first step, before anything else, you need, well, a clicker! Grab one from a pet store or online. Also, stack up on your pet’s favorite treats – those will be the rewards!

Charge the Clicker: No, no – it’s not another thing you’ve gotta make sure is charged at all times, and don’t worry about losing a cable either. ‘Charging’ the clicker means teaching your pet that a click equals a treat. Start in a quiet, distraction-free spot. Do a few clicks and give your pet a treat right after each one. Do this a few times, and voila – they’ll link the click with a yummy reward.

Start Simple: Begin your training with easy tasks – if possible one they already know. Sit and stay are good ones to start. Remember to click and treat any time they get it right. The process should be ask for the cue, your dog performs the cue, you click, you reward. Don’t be tempted to do it in any other order!

Practice Makes Pawfect: Excuse the pun… But the point is, practice regularly and keep the sessions short and sweet so your dog doesn’t lose interest.

PetSafe ClickerCheck PriceThis easy-to-use clicker strengthens communication and enhances learning through positive reinforcement. Suitable for all ages and breeds, the PetSafe Clicker comes with a helpful training guide to get started. Its attractive purple design and comfortable ergonomic grip make dog training a breeze, creating a lasting bond with your pet. Happy clicking!Ruffwear Treat PouchCheck PricePresenting the Ruffwear Treat Trader – a must-have for your dog training sessions. This durable, wearable treat bag features a convenient magnetic closure for easy, one-handed access to rewards. It comes with an adjustable belt for versatile wear and also includes a small outer pocket for essential items. Perfect for encouraging your pup’s good behavior, this treat bag is designed to keep up with you and your pet’s active lifestyle. High Value TreatVital Essentials Freeze-Dried Chicken Hearts Dog Treats 100% USA Made Healthy Treat for Your Furry FCheck PriceThese are some of my go-tos for high value treats. These all-natural dog treats are 100% USA sourced, made from fresh chicken hearts – no added fillers, hormones or antibiotics. Ideal for training, travel, or simply as a treat, they’re lightweight, travel-friendly and come in a resealable pouch. Plus, the freeze-drying process ensures they retain their natural vital nutrients.this may be an affiliated link and I may earn a small comission, however this does not change my opinion in any way!

Tips for Using the Clicker Effectively

Timing is Key: One of the most important things about clicker training is timing. Clicking at the right time ensures your pet understands what behavior is being rewarded. So, as soon as your dog follows a command correctly, click!

One Click for One Treat: When you start, you always follow the click with a treat. This reinforces the positive association your dog has with the sound of the click.

Variety is the Spice of Life: Mix up the treats to keep the excitement alive. Different types, flavors, and sizes can keep your pet eager and attentive.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Clicking Without Treating: A common mistake is to click without following it up with a treat. Remember, the click means a treat is coming – always!

Clicker Overuse: Don’t overdo it with the clicker. It’s not a remote control! Only click once to mark the behavior you’re rewarding.

Late Clicking: If you click too late, your dog might not associate the correct behavior with the reward. Again, timing is everything!

Delaying the Reward: Treat your dog immediately after the click. Don’t keep them guessing!

Armed with these tips and techniques, you’re good to go! Happy clicking, hooman, and remember – keep it fun and rewarding for your pup.

But My Hands Are Full…

If you’re anything like I was when I first entered dog training, and you’re thinking this looks like a great way to train new behaviors – but your biggest hesitation is that you work with more than one dog, or you have a big dog, or your hands are always full and don’t have space for a clicker – I really really sympathise with you. Because that was me too.

The good news is that the same method can be used without the sound of the clicker – you just need to use a “marker word”, verbal marker or it’s sometimes simply called praise.

do remember, your clicker isn’t a remote control, you cue is your prompt, your clicker is your “well done!”

Click, treat, repeat!

There are lots of different ways to incorporate clicker training with a food treat or play to show your dog they’re a good dog before you move onto the next step.

And there you have it, dog lovers – your easy-peasy guide on clicker training. Remember, it’s a fun, positive, and highly effective training technique based on the principles of operant conditioning. By associating the unique, consistent click sound with rewards, you’ll have a clear way to communicate what behaviours you want to see more often from your furry friend.

Start with a clicker and some delicious treats, and ‘charge’ the clicker by associating it with positive rewards. Begin with simple tasks to nail the technique and advance to more complex commands as you and your dog get more comfortable. Always be mindful of your timing – click right when the good behavior occurs, and then treat. And remember the cardinal rules: one click equals one treat, and treats follow clicks closely.

While mistakes are normally a part of any learning process, making a conscious effort to avoid them can make your clicker training more effective. Overusing the clicker, clicking without treating, late clicking, and delaying the reward can confuse your dog and slow down their learning. Try to steer clear of these pitfalls, and you’re on your way to a successful, fruitful clicker training journey.

At the end of the day, remember that clicker training is not just about teaching new tricks or obedience. It’s about strengthening the bond between you and your dog, and making learning enjoyable. So keep the patience tank full, make it fun, and build memories alongside skills during those training sessions. Happy training, hoomans!

all dogs can learn through positive reinforcement, and if you’re struggling? It’s a communication issue, not the method.

Clicker Training FAQ

Q: What is clicker training?A: Clicker training is a positive reinforcement-based training method for dogs that involves using a small handheld device that makes a clicking sound whenever the desired behavior is performed. It helps to create a clear, consistent form of communication between you and your dog, making training more efficient and enjoyable.

Q: Can I use a different sound instead of a clicker?A: Yes, you can use a different sound like a whistle or a verbal cue like “Yes!” to mark the correct behavior. The important thing is to choose something unique and consistent for your dog so they can quickly understand what you’re trying to communicate. Check out Clicker training vs marker word; what’s more effective? to get a little more reading!

Q: How long does it take to train my dog using clicker training?A: The amount of time it takes can vary depending on factors like the individual dog’s temperament, the complexity of the behavior being taught, and the consistency of your training sessions. Some dogs may respond very quickly, while others may take more time. Regular, short training sessions are generally more effective than infrequent, longer sessions.

Q: Can I use clicker training for behaviors other than tricks or commands?A: Absolutely! Clicker training can be used to shape almost any type of behavior, including reducing or eliminating undesirable behaviors like barking, jumping, or chewing.

Q: Should I always use a food reward when clicker training?A: While treats are an effective way to reinforce your dog’s good behavior during the learning phase, you can gradually reduce their usage as your dog becomes more familiar with the behavior. You can also use other rewards your dog enjoys, such as toys or praise, to reinforce good behavior.

Q: Can I use clicker training for older dogs or puppies?A: Yes! Clicker training can be used for dogs of all ages. Puppies may have shorter attention spans, so keep training sessions brief and engaging. Similarly, older dogs may have physical limitations; choose appropriate behaviors and training steps based on their abilities.

Q: Can clicker training be used for multiple dogs at once?A: Training multiple dogs simultaneously can be challenging, as it may be difficult to effectively reward the correct behavior for each dog. It’s often better to train each dog separately to ensure clarity and progress.

Q: What if I accidentally click at the wrong time?A: If you accidentally click at the wrong time, simply give your dog a treat anyway, to maintain the consistency of the click-treat relationship. Mistakes happen, and occasional misclicks are unlikely to have a significant negative effect on your training progress.

Q: Can a Hearing-impaired dog use a clicker? A: That depends on the dog, and whilst we love this form of positive reinforcement training, training a deaf or hearing impaired dog presents totally different challenges, so a bespoke training program is a great idea – though you can use hand signals in the same way as a marker word or a dog training clicker. 

Q: How quick is clicker training? A: that really depends on you, how often you train, if you catch that precise moment, and whether you’re training basic commands or remedying more problematic behavior. I know that’s vague, but It’s really important to me that I give you realistic expectations of training your dog. 

Q: Can I use a hand signal with clickers?A:  Yes! Clicker training incorporates well with hand signals, luckily. 

​Q: Can Clickers be aversive?A: Actually, yes, the clicker sound can be too much for some dogs, most clickers have a “volume” setting to help the audible sound change slightly for a more sensitive dog.

Remember, the key to successful clicker training is clear communication, patience, and consistency. Enjoy the process, and watch as your bond with your dog grows stronger as you learn together. Happy training!

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Author, Ali Smith

Ali Smith is a professional, qualified, and multi-award winning trainer is the founder of rebarkable. She has always believed animals deserve kindness and champions force free methods. Believing that dog guardians will all choose the kindest options if proper information is provided, she aims to help all dog guardians who need it and make dog training as accessible as possible

Ali lives win Maryland, US with her husband and her three dogs.

 

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