Training Your Dog Using a Clicker

Updated on April 16, 2023

Have you ever watched dog trainers on TV and wondered what those tiny handheld clicking gadgets are? The truth is, they’re a useful tool for training that fits in well with the principles of positive reinforcement for dogs.

Many canines are anxious to please their owners and enthusiastic about learning, and they are more likely to do so if they are rewarded at the conclusion of their training sessions. It is for this reason why training based on positive reinforcement is so efficient. But why would a clicker be useful in this situation?

A clicker tool is sometimes misunderstood as a pointless gimmick, but its usefulness cannot be overstated. Let’s take a look at what clicker training is, why it’s useful, and how you and your dog can profit from it.

WHAT IS CLICKER TRAINING?

Clicker training, also known as “mark and reward,” is a form of positive reinforcement training (in which the dog is rewarded when it exhibits desirable behaviour) that makes use of a clicker to facilitate the process.

When your dog accomplishes something positive, you can use a tool called a clicker to signal that moment by making a small noise.

Scientists are always digging deeper into the mysteries of canine behaviour in an effort to decode the inner workings of our canine companions and develop more effective training methods. It’s well knowledge that praising and rewarding a dog for a good deed increases the likelihood that it will be repeated.

You shouldn’t take your dog’s good behaviour for granted, so it’s important to focus on it instead of constantly correcting it when it goes wrong. It can have a profound effect on your dog’s behaviour if you reward good choices he makes.

When using a clicker to train a dog, it is crucial to time the click and the reward for the desired behaviour. When the clicking sound is immediately followed by a reward, the animal learns to associate it with the anticipation of a reward.

A clicker is useful because it communicates to your dog exactly whatever behaviour you wish to reinforce. You can “mark” the exact second your dog obeyed your command by clicking the mouse. The click indicates to your dog exactly what they did right, rather than leaving them to speculate.

If you want to teach your dog to sit, you should click right when its rear touches the ground.

WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THE CLICK?

The click is only a convenient means to indicate a specific instance of appropriate behaviour; it is not significant in and of itself. The key is that you probably won’t be able to replicate that particular clicking noise outside of a training setting.

This means that you can use any sound other than the clicker to train your dog, so long as it is never a sound you would use in everyday life. You may use a marker word like “yeah” or “good” or you could use a signal such as a whistle, clapping your hands, or clicking your tongue.

A hand gesture or a little tap on the shoulder can serve as a marker for the dogs that are a bit hard of hearing.

WHAT’S THE POINT IN A CLICKER IF I CAN JUST USE A WORD?

You know, a clicker’s sound never changes, while yours does not. Your voice fluctuates in pitch, loudness, and tone as you speak, but the clicker remains constant.

Clicker, marker, or hand gesture—neither has any value without the positive item that follows, the reward. The dog understands the click to indicate something more along the lines of “stay” or “stay good,” depending on the context.

Typically, a high value, delectable treat does the trick, but surprisingly, not all dogs are that driven by food incentives, so you might need to get a bit creative with the reward.

Some dogs would prefer work for their favourite tennis ball, while others would rather have plenty of attention lavished on them, and yet others would rather have a tasty treat.

HOW DOES CLICKER TRAINING HELP?

While it would be convenient if our dogs could fully comprehend our words, especially when we’re trying to get them to stop misbehaving, they can’t. As a result, we need to employ ingenious training techniques to help our canine companions learn the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behaviour.

It may seem obvious to you the behaviour you are rewarding with a treat while you are training your dog, but is it really evident to your dog, who has no idea what you are thinking or feeling?

Let’s examine an illustration. The desired behaviour while teaching your dog to lie down is having their stomach touch the ground. But how will they learn that the reward is for lying down and not walking to the treat if they pop up as soon as they touch the floor or have to get up to get to their reward?

Food rewards can be given more quickly, but arranging a game of tug of war as a reward can be more challenging. As the dog performs the appropriate behaviour, the click serves to pass the time until you can provide a reward. The clicker helps you and your dog pinpoint exactly when the desired behaviour occurred.

It’s possible you’re questioning why you can’t just use compliments, like “good boy/girl,” instead. You could, but it wouldn’t be as simple and obvious as a click. After all, if you’re like the majority of dog owners, you probably praise your dog constantly for no reason at all, which makes it too general to use in training.

We already established that your dog has never heard a click before, which is why it is so effective.

Dogs can learn a lot with the help of clicker training.

Methods of dog training using a clicker
To top it all off, dogs who have been trained with a clicker are more eager to please and learn than their non-clicker-trained counterparts. A dog will be more motivated, attentive, and eager to please you if they have to work for the privilege of hearing the clicker.

HOW DO YOU DO IT?

Clicker training your dog is something you can do with any age dog, from a puppy to an old dog.

To get started with clicker training, you’ll need to “load the clicker” so your dog understands its purpose. Your dog will learn to associate the click with a treat if you click and then immediately give it a treat. About 20 clicks and treats should be enough to teach your dog the connection.

In the early stages, it is essential to reward even if there is an inadvertent click.

Rather than putting the clicker in front of the dog, it is preferable to have it behind your back or down by your side. If you have a dog that is very sensitive to noise, you may want to try concealing the clicker in your pocket in case it causes any anxiety.

The moment for training has come. Click and treat your dog as soon as he or she sits down from now on; it should be obvious that this is the desired behaviour.

IMPORTANT THINGS TO CONSIDER

If you use the clicker for anything other than to reinforce positive behaviour in training, the dog will quickly learn that it is not a reward for good behaviour.
One click per nice deed is all that is required.
You don’t want your dog to get bored and frustrated, so keep training sessions brief.
If you want to’shape’ behaviours, clickers can be a great tool to use. If you need to instruct a more complex task that can only be learned in phases, utilise shaping.

As an example, if you want to teach your dog to shake hands with you, you may click and reward any time the dog approaches you with a paw, and then gradually shape the behaviour into a full handshake.

As a bonus, clickers are a fantastic tool for spotting and rewarding unexpected acts of kindness. For the sake of your sanity and your dog’s, it may be a good idea to click and praise whenever you see your hyperactive pet lying down peacefully resting.

One day, all your hard work in training will “click,” if you’ll excuse the expression. Your dog’s clicker will no longer be necessary once he or she has learned the desired behaviour or trick.

RECAP

With any luck, you now have everything you need to successfully clicker-train your dog.

While clickers aren’t required, they can be a useful tool for training your dog and getting your pet excited to please in exchange for a small reward (the “click”). Try it out!

 

 

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