Clicker training is a method that uses a unique sound, a click, to tell a dog that he has done something right. Because the click sound is hard to replicate in daily life it is a distinct sound that can be used to mark any action or behavior a dog does. The sound is made using a 'clicker'. A clicker is a small hand-held device that gives a 'click' sound when pressed. Clickers have been used to train marine and other animals for many years and have now become very popular in positive dog training.
How Does Clicker Training Work?
To begin with a dog is taught that the sound of the click means he will get a tasty reward. When he does what is asked, such as sits or lies down, the clicker is pressed and the click sound is immediately followed by a reward. This gives a dog instant feedback and reinforces the particular action, choice or behavior he has just done. The dog soon associates the sound with something good and responds quickly again in anticipation of receiving a similar reward.
The clicker device is usually hand held which makes it difficult for some people to use. However if the clicker is put on a finger or worn attached to a ‘bracelet’ around the wrist, it can be easier to access while leaving hands free to hold a leash. Some people prefer to use a simple word such as “good” or “yes” as a verbal marker instead of a clicker while others like to use a verbal marker while pressing the clicker so that both markers become the reward. This can make the transition from using the clicker to just a verbal cue, easier.
How to 'Charge’ the Clicker:
- Start with a handful of really delicious treats cut into small pieces.
- Every time you click, give your dog a treat. Do not click and treat at the same time; the treat must follow the click. You can also throw the treat onto the ground and click just before your dog eats it.
- Repeat the process while you are standing up, sitting down, or moving about and in all different kinds of environments, so your dog understands that no matter where he hears the click, he has done something right and will receive a tasty reward.
- Repeat this exercise a few times a day for a few minutes at a time until, when you click, you notice that your dog is eagerly anticipating the treat.
- Clicker Rules:
- Click only once
- If you click you must treat
- Do not use the clicker like a remote control and point it at your dog. Hold the clicker by your side or behind your back
- If your dog is scared of the sound of the clicker, muffle it with a towel, purchase a softer clicker or use another teaching method.
- Teaching a Dog to Sit with a Clicker:
- Catch your dog in the act of sitting. As soon as he puts his behind on the ground, click and treat.
- Repeat this whenever you see him sitting and as he is in the act of sitting, say “sit” and click and treat when he has sat.
- When your dog understands the meaning of the word “sit” you are ready to ask him for the action.
- Ask your dog to “sit”
- As soon as your dog puts his behind on the ground, press the clicker and immediately follow with a food reward.
- Do I Always Have to Carry a Clicker and Treats?
No. Clicker training is a great way of motivating dogs to learn new things such as actions and behaviors. It can also be used to mark a change of mood or a good choice your dog makes. Once your dog is proficient at whatever action he has been taught or behavior he has chosen, the clicker can be faded out and used again when teaching your dog something new.
Brooke Fagel, Head Trainer