Clicker Training for Dogs

Clicker training for dogs is one of the most effective training methods available. Clicker training has been used by professional trainers to train a wide variety of animals from birds to dolphins. If this method can motivate a parrot to ride a bicycle, it can certainly aid you and your dog with those leash pulling problems!

Why It Works

The clicker is effective because it is consistent. It is a more timely reward marker than "good dog" because the thumb is quicker than the mouth. You can catch your dog exhibiting a good behavior even if he only does it for a few seconds. Think of your clicker as a tiny camera. When your dog is performing a desirable behavior, press the button to click a snapshot.

Getting Started with the Clicker

Introducing the clicker is easy and fun. Simply make the clicker click, and toss a treat to your dog. Do not ask for any behaviors just yet, only click and treat. Do this several times, and then put the clicker and treats away. Repeat this procedure in another area of the house or in the backyard later in the day. Do it out on a walk, periodically activating the clicker and giving your dog a treat. By now, your dog has caught on to the idea that when he hears the click, he is going to get a treat.

A Multi-Purpose Tool

The clicker may be utilized in a couple of ways. You may either give a training command and then click when your dog performs the task—you say "Sit" and when he sits you will click and give him a treat. Or you may wish to just let the clicker do all the talking. For instance, if your dog is jumping up on you, you may ignore him until he has all four paws on the floor. When he is not jumping up, even if it is for just a second, click and toss a treat on the floor. Your dog will pick up on the idea that paws on the floor, not on the person, is a behavior that will be rewarded. Both uses of the clicker are effective. You will be able to increase the duration of a behavior by using the clicker. If you want your dog to remain in a sit, simply delay the click until you are ready for him to move. Most of the time, unless the distraction level is too high, your dog will sit still and anticipate the sound of the clicker before breaking from a behavior.

Phasing out the Clicker

An effective training tool will eventually render itself obsolete. Once your dog has mastered the behavior you are teaching him to perform, you will no longer need to mark the behavior with a clicker. You should continue to praise and reward your dog for a job well done, but you will not need the clicker again until you begin to teach a new behavior.