How to Clicker Train your Dog

Three Minutes
Apr 23, 2022

Clicker training is a popular training method for animals. It has been proven effective for training all kinds of animals from marine mammals to horses and dogs. It is favored by many pet owners because of its focus on positive reinforcement rather than punishment. 

In this article, we’ll cover the origins of clicker training, whether it’s the right choice for you and the basics of how to train your dog using a clicker. Read on to learn more!

What is Clicker Training?

First, let’s begin with the clicker itself. A Clicker is any type of device that makes a clicking sound when the device or button is pushed. 

This animal training method that was developed in the early 1900s. In the 1990s this training method rose to popularity thanks to the work of the animal trainers Karen Pryor and Gary Wilkes. 

This training method focuses on positive reinforcement, meaning animals are rewarded for performing desired behaviors and are not punished for making mistakes. When the dog performs the desired behavior the trainer marks the instance with a click and offers the dog a reward. 

Why Choose Clicker Training?

One of the most appealing aspects of clicker training is that it is rewards-based and does not involve punishing pets. It has a wide range of applications and can be used to teach your dog everything from basic obedience to advanced actions, behavioral modification (such as preventing aggression) and tricks! 

Additionally, clicker training is relatively easy to learn, if you’re new to dog training. It is a fun way to bond with your pup, and there is no limit to the number of things you can teach your dog using this method.

How to Clicker Train Your Dog

Introduce your Dog to the Clicker

The first stage of clicker training involves teaching your dog what the clicker means. This is sometimes referred to as “charging the clicker.” For a few days in a row, each time your dog does something you like (it doesn’t matter what it is), click and then reward him with a treat. Soon, your dog will associate the sound of the click with a reward.

Start with the Basics 

Once your dog has learned that clicks are followed by treats, you can begin marking specific actions you want your dog to perform. For instance, if you want your dog to learn to sit, say sit and then use a treat to coax your dog into a sitting position. The moment your dog sits you need to click.

Think of the click as a way of taking a photo. You want to capture the moment your dog sits, not the moment before or after. As soon as you click, reward your dog with a treat.

In the beginning, it’s likely easiest to use the clicker to teach your dog obedience skills. Later you can move on to behavior modification (if necessary) and even teaching tricks.

Set your Dog up for Success

Clicker training is most effective when your dog can continually earn treats. If what you’re asking of your dog is too difficult, he will continually fail and soon grow frustrated with the process. With this in mind, be sure to build small milestones into your training process and gradually increase the difficulty of each task. 

For instance, if you’re teaching your pup to stay, slowly increase the distance you put between you and your dog during the stay. Once he consistently stays when you’re 5 feet away, increase the distance to 7 feet, then 10 feet, and so on. 

Phase-out Treats

Clicker training is based on rewarding good behavior, but the rewards do not always need to be treats. Of course, in the beginning, it’s wise to use treats to capture your dog’s interest, but it’s important to phase them out over time and replace them with a different reward. If you continue to rely on food treats you run the risk that your dog will refuse to follow directions unless you have treats in your hand. Praise, toys, and affection are all great rewards to use in place of food treats.

Tips for Clicker Training Success 

Always Reward within 3 seconds of the Click

Rewarding your dog immediately following the click is really important, especially at the beginning of clicker training. The click marks the desired action that your dog performs. If you wait too long to offer the treat your dog will no longer associate the reward with the click, which is cause for confusion. Experts say that after 3 seconds your dog will be thinking about something new, so be quick to hand out the treats!

Keep Training Sessions Short and Sweet

Training is most successful if you end on a high note. With this in mind, try to keep your training sessions to 15 minutes or less. If you notice your dog is losing focus call it a day before you both become frustrated. Make sure to end the session by helping your dog earn a treat.

Learn your Dog’s Body Language

Learning to understand what your dog is saying with his body will help you be more successful in your training. This is especially true when you are working on more advanced training, such as behavioral modification. Knowing what your dog is communicating will help you anticipate his reaction or receptivity to situations that he is confronted with. Familiarizing yourself with their body language can help/

Timing is Everything

It’s essential to be precise when using a clicker. Remember, the click is like snapping a photo of the moment your dog performs the action you are asking for. If you click too soon or too late you will mark the wrong behavior leading to confusion for both you and your pup.

Be Consistent

Training sessions don’t need to be very long but you should hold them consistently. Try to work with your dog daily to reinforce what you’re teaching him.

Clicker training is a wonderful, engaging way to teach your dog new tricks and commands. It is favored by many trainers and dog owners because it does focus on positive reinforcement rather than any punishment. This method is humane for your pet and helps you build a stronger bond with them. 

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances. 

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