What is clicker training?

If you’re thinking of training your dog with a clicker, we do recommend that you come to a trainer like us for help. This makes sure that you know what you’re doing and teach your dog usefully and efficiently, and means that you won’t run the risk of teaching your dog any kind of bad habits.

The first things you need for clicker training are treats and a clicker. This is a small device that just produces an audible clicking noise when pressed. Your dog won’t automatically recognize what this device is for, so you do have to prime your dog to recognize the sequence of events first. We advise you do this by taking a handful of treats and finding a place with no distractions for your dog. Let them settle down so that they’re not showing too much interest in the treats before you use the clicker. As soon as they respond by turning towards them, you can give them a treat. You should repeat this a few times until they’re reliably turning toward you when you use the clicker, to show they have solidly associated the click with the treat. Don’t do this at regular intervals, or your dog may simply turn to you out of habit, and don’t click when their attention is already on you, or they won’t know what the cue was for them to be rewarded.

Once you have this behavior trained, you can reinforce it by randomly using the clicker as a signal for giving the dog a treat over the next few days. Only once this behavior is strongly ingrained should you really begin to try training them, which may take time, depending on the intelligence of your dog.

The correct way to use a clicker in training is to give the command, wait, and when the dog performs the trick you are asking him to perform, you immediately click and then give him the treat. When he hears the click, he knows he’s doing the right thing in respond to whatever command you gave him – which you should keep simple, one or two words at most, and distinctive. Don’t use similar words for different commands: his hearing doesn’t distinguish particular words in the way we do.

You can use this method for all kinds of training scenarios, and it will become more effective as your dog learns to trust you and associate the clicker with a positive reward. All dogs may be “difficult” at times, and if training isn’t going well on a particular day, you may want to end it and just spend some time with your dog without any training, to reduce any stress.

And don’t forget, the younger your dog, the easier it is to train them! If your dog is older, you may still have some success with clicker training, but equally he might be more difficult to train.