How to Clicker Train Your Dog

Photo by Dog Breath Photography|

Photo by Dog Breath Photography|

Have you ever heard of clicker training before?

Clicker training is a type of training that uses a little device that makes a clicking sound, called a clicker. The dog starts to understand that when the clicker clicks, a treat follows. This device works as a marker, letting the dog know that he did something that is going to earn him something good. (e.g. food, toys, praise etc.)

To start this process off with your dog, you need to do what is referred to as “charging the clicker.” This is the process that teaches your dog what the clicker is all about. To charge the clicker, all you need to do is get some repetition in of clicking followed by giving a treat.

Check out this video for a visual:

Once your dog has the hang of what the clicker is all about, you’re able to start using it to teach new behaviors, or shape up old behaviors that have gotten a little sloppy. In order to get the most out of the clicker, you want to make sure you click it as soon as the wanted behavior happens. You have roughly a 1 second window. If your click is too delayed, you may be marking the wrong behavior. If you mark the wrong behavior, that wrong behavior will continue.

An example would be if I were teaching a dog to sit. As soon as the dog’s butt hits the ground, I want to click. If the dog’s butt hits the ground, and then he stands up, and I click while he is standing up, he’ll probably think that standing up is what I want instead of sitting. To sum this up, in order to use this successfully, timing is very important.

One fun way to use a clicker is to do free shaping / capturing. In the video below, I am teaching my dog V how to do new behaviors all by clicking when he does something I like. All these behaviors started off as small movements. By clicking and treating those small movements, he caught on and started putting emphasis on those movements to get more rewards.

Take a look:

And finally, here is another example of me using the clicker while teaching my dog to go to his bed when someone knocks on the door. I taught this to him in steps, but the overall idea is that as soon as he does the correct behavior, (getting on his bed) he hears the click, and the reward follows.

These are just some examples of how one is used. Overall it’s a great tool for teaching. Additionally, you don’t always need it once your dog understands the behavior. Give it a shot; you’ll be surprised how quickly your dog starts picking up on stuff!

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Positively Expert: Kevin Duggan

Kevin is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers and is a Canine Good Citizen Evaluator through the American Kennel Club. He currently resides in Ohio , where he operates All Dogs Go To Kevin, LLC.


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