What’s up with the clicker?

You might have seen dog trainers on TV use a clicker, or perhaps you noticed other dog owners train their dogs with a clicker. If you’ve ever wondered what clicker training is all about and how the clicker works, you’ll get a few useful tips in this blog.

There are whole books dedicated to clicker training and it’s difficult to condense everything you need to know into a few paragraphs, but if you’re keen to learn more, join us in our two-hour ‘Introduction to Clicker Training’ seminar, Tuesday 13 January 2015.

Before you start any training

‘Charge’ the clicker (click – treat, repeat several sessions of 10-20 click and treats). Once your dog looks at you expecting a treat when he hears the click, he made the association between the clicking sound and treats, and you’re ready to start your training.

A few clicker training ‘rules’

Not quite 'Dancing with the Stars' and unrehearsed, but here's my dog Frankie in a rapid Quick Fire Challenge running through some of the tricks he's learnt with clicker training such as sit, spin, down, go sleep, speak, jump up, back up, give a kiss, touch hand, and through.

  • You must click immediately when your dog does the correct behaviour
  • Always treat when you click and deliver it quickly

  • Don’t use the clicker for anything else

  • Keep sessions short

  • Keep it fun

  • Release your dog when the session is finished, e.g. you could say “that’s all for now”

  • Keep your dog engaged – if he looks discouraged, lower your expectations and click and treat for a not-so-perfect behaviour. You can always work your way up again.

Why use a clicker?

  • The clicking sound is a clear, distinct marker of the correct behaviour, whereas your voice often varies in tone, inflection and loudness. Also, humans generally talk a lot, which makes it hard for the dog to distinguish when what you say is directed at him.

  • The click bridges the time between your dog performing the correct behaviour and you being able to give him a treat.

  • The click ‘tells’ your dog “Yes, what you are doing is exactly right, and a treat is coming.”

When do I use a clicker?

Use the clicker when you’re teaching your dog new behaviours. Once your dog knows it well, you don’t have to use the clicker anymore - you can use the occasional treat, play, and praise.

How does clicker training affect my dog?

Dogs trained with clicker 

  • Are keen to train with you and it makes them happy

  • Become more proactive when training and often offer behaviours