Clicker training can make communication between you and your dog easier, whether it’s old, young, or new. Clicker training has been a popular choice for dog owners and trainers ever since the 1990s. It allows us to quickly build a common language of understanding with our dogs. Here are the basics.
What is a Clicker?
Clickers are small, plastic boxes or devices that make a clicking sound when they are pressed. The clicker is not a remote control or magic button. Clickers work because they are a conditioned reinforcer. Dogs learn quickly that clicking the clicker will reward them with a treat (treat).
Clicker training is particularly effective because it allows us communicate clearly to our dogs when they have performed a particular behavior or movement that we like.
Why clickers work
Many people mistakenly believe that clicking the clicker is a reward. However, for dogs the clicker signals that the reward is coming. Dogs are more likely to do the same thing again if they are rewarded for doing what you want. This is why positive reinforcement training is so effective.
Alternately you could use a marker word such as “good” or yes to let your dog know that a treat is coming. Dogs often respond better to clicking sounds because they are consistent and clear.
Clicker training your puppy or dog should be easy.
- A Clicker. You can order one online, or pick one up from most pet supply shops. There are many designs available. Some are square with a metal sheet in the middle, while others are plastic with raised buttons. Both make the same sound so don’t be too concerned about how it looks!
Rarely, dogs with extreme sound sensitive ears may be alarmed by the clicker’s sound. You can find quieter clickers to suit shy or sensitive dogs in this situation.
- Treats. You’ll need lots of small treats to get started. This is both for calorie control and speedy eating. You can also use your dog’s food bowl to provide a meal’s worth of kibble for clicker training and introduce your puppy or dog to clicker training during mealtimes.
To introduce your dog to a clicker, you must first teach them that clicking the clicker signifies they are about to receive a reward. This process is called “charging” of the clicker.
- Click to immediately give your dog a treat.
- Repeat the process several times in the next few seconds.
This stage is where your dog gets a treat for doing “nothing.” But that’s okay! It’s still important. You don’t want your dog to follow your lead at this point.
- Wandering around
- We look at you
It is important to click while your dog does random and different activities so they don’t misunderstand the click. Next comes the treat!
Learn New Skills
Once your dog understands clicks are treats, you can start to incorporate the clicker into your training routine for a specific trick or skill. Many trainers will begin to praise and treat dogs who are confident in learning new skills. However, while you work on new skills, a clicker may help your dog learn faster. There are two ways to teach with a clicker: luring and capturing.
- Luring. To get your dog to the desired position, use a treat. To teach your dog “sit”, you can use a treat to get their attention and then lure them up until they are comfortable sitting. Click your dog’s bottom until it touches the ground and then give them a treat.
- Capturing. You want to capture your dog doing any natural behavior to teach them by capturing. Click and treat each time your dog does a certain movement like yawning, stretching, or shaking. You can add a verbal cue to your dog’s behavior by using repeated reinforcement click cues.
Change your behavior
Clicker training requires that our interactions with our dogs be rooted in a positive reinforcement approach. Clicker training is not just for tricks. It can also be used to adjust behavior that you may find difficult, such as barking at neighbors dogs or jumping on guests.
Does your dog bark too much?
A clicker can be a powerful tool to help your dog behave differently than shouting at him. Here’s how it works.
Step 1 Have a stash of treats and your clicker ready.
Step 2 When your dog starts barking outside or in front of the window, wait until your dog is quiet, then click, reward, and praise your dog. Clicking in the silence between barks is the key.
Step 3 Your dog will quickly associate being quiet with a click and a treat. They will then start to bark instead of barking. Don’t forget to reward them.
Do you have a dog that jumps up on people?
Instead of scolding your dog if they jump, teach them to do something else!
Step 1 Get your clicker and a pocket full treats ready.
Step 2Click to treat your dog as soon as all four of his feet are on the ground.
Step 3 They will quickly make the association that good behavior happens when they don’t jump, and will offer the four-footed on the floor behavior.
Clicker Training is a great way to learn more! The national Clicker Expo conferences are a great way for people to learn basic skills and to connect with others using positive reinforcement methods such as clicker training.