Getting Started with Clicker Training

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Clicker training is a fun and effective way of teaching your dog new things from obedience behaviors to tricks, and for solving behavior problems.  Before you start using the clicker with your dog, you first have to establish the clicker as a secondary reinforcer. The sound of a clicker means nothing to your dog by itself, but once your dog learns that the click means they have earned a valuable reward, they will be eager to find ways to make you click. The clicker serves as marker that tells your dog exactly what they did to earn the reward. The click is always followed by a reward. 

Charging up the clicker is the first step in clicker training. First prepare a few small treats that your dog really enjoys. Hold your clicker away from your dog so the noise does not startle them the first time they hear it. Press your clicker to sound the click and immediately feed your dog a tasty treat. Wait a few seconds and repeat. 

Notice where your hands are placed when clicking. You want your dog to listen for the click, not watch for body movement that might indicate a treat is coming. For example if at the same time you are clicking your other hand is taking the treat out of your pocket, than your dog will be watching for you to go for the treat rather than just listening for the click. Do not point the clicker at your dog like a remote control. Simply click with your hands still and than give your dog the treat.

Charging up the clicker is a quick process that usually takes no more than one session. After clicking and treating only a few times your dog will start to make the connection between the two. You should move on quickly to actually clicking for specific behaviors so you don’t get stuck on clicking your dog for nothing. 

In your next session wait for eye contact before you click. Repeat clicking/treating every time your dog looks at you. Your dog is now learning that they can make the click happen by offering eye contact. 

Clicker training is fun to use and the possibilities are endless. It doesn't take long to get started, and once you do you might just be hooked. 

Note about deaf dogs: Secondary reinforcers like the clicker are beneficial for all dogs. Deaf dogs can be trained using a hand signal like a thumbs up or, a physical touch like a touch to the shoulder in place of the click.