What is Clicker Training For Dogs?
Clicker training is a method of animal training that uses a click to tell an animal when it does something correctly.
The clicker is a tiny box held in the palm of your hand, with a button that you push quickly to make the sound. Clicker training is considered to be a positive training method since the dog is rewarded for good behavior.
How Does Dog Clicker Training Work?
The clicker creates a connection between a human trainer and an animal trainee.
First, a trainer teaches the dog that every time it hears the clicking sound, it gets a treat. Once the dog understands that clicks are always followed by treats, the click becomes a welcome sound.
For example, if a pet owner wants to teach a dog to sit, they will click the instant the dog’s butt hits the floor and then give the dog a tasty training treat. With repetition, the dog learns that sitting earns rewards. So the click takes on a certain meaning.
Through the clicker, the trainer communicates with the dog, and that speeds up training.
Some dogs will naturally respond better to this type of training than others. For example, anxious dogs or dogs who are sensitive to sounds may be frightened of the clicker.
Dog Clicker Training Basics
Once your dog seems to understand the connection between the click and the treat, you’re ready to get started. Keep these guidelines from the ASPCA in mind to ensure your clicker training success:
- Click just once, right when your pet does what you want him to do.
- Remember to follow every click with a treat.
- Work on one behavior at a time.
- Keep training sessions short (15 minutes or less).
- End training sessions on a good note, when your pet has succeeded with what you’re working on. If necessary, ask your dog to do something you know it can do well at the end of a session.
- If your dog runs away when he hears the click, you can make the sound softer by putting it in your pocket or wrapping a towel around the hand that is holding the clicker.
There are three types of clicker training methods:
“Catching” means that you catch your pet in the act of doing the behavior you want. It’s the perfect method for training behaviors that your pet already does on his own, like sitting, lying down, and maybe rolling over on grass.
For example, if you want to train your dog to lie down, you can stand in your living room with your dog and just wait.
After a little while, your dog will probably decide to lie down and get comfortable on his own. The instant his body hits the floor, click and toss a treat on the ground a few feet in front of him.
With “shaping,” you gradually build a new behavior in a series of small steps by clicking and rewarding.
Shaping is a good method for training new behaviors (or a series of behaviors) that your pet doesn’t already do on his own naturally. You start by rewarding the first small behavior that begins your pet on his journey toward the complete behavior. When he’s mastered that first step, you ask a little more of him—require him to do the next small step to earn his click and treat.
“Luring” involves using a treat as a guide to get your pet into the desired position. The food is held right in front of your pet’s nose and then moved while he follows it.
For example, to lure a dog into a down position, hold a piece of food in front of his nose and then slowly draw it straight down in front of his chest to the floor. The food will work like a magnet, drawing your dog’s nose and then his body downward. As his elbows touch the floor, click and treat for the down.
After some practice, you can just use the hand motion to prompt your dog to lie down. Make the same movement as before, but with no treat in your hand. Over many repetitions, you can gradually make this hand signal smaller and shorter. Eventually, your dog will lie down when you point to the ground.
Watch as dog training expert Victoria Stilwell takes us through some clicker training basics!
Advantages to Dog Clicker Training:
- Your dog is working in a highly rewarding atmosphere which encourages him to do well.
- You can do several repetitions of the same behavior without losing the dog’s interest or affecting his motivation due to the treats.
- Training sessions can last longer with reward-based training programs than other types of trainings that are not reward-based.
- This is one of the best training concepts to build a great relationship between the dog and his handler.
- Clicker training is an excellent way to train dogs who participate in sports such as agility. Because timing is so critical when training, a clicker is invaluable with shaping a dog’s behavior.
Disadvantages to Dog Clicker Training:
- It is a reward-based concept, so if you are dealing with a dog that has a low food or toy drive, then this training might not work as well.
- If the clicker training is not done properly or if the dog has a lower drive for the reward, etc., then learned behaviors are more prone to be forgotten without the prolonged presence of the reward.
- Clicker training requires a lot of knowledge, practice ,and is time consuming
Tips On Clicker Training For Dogs
In addition to the information listed above, there are a few more clicker training for dogs tips we’d like to provide you with.
- Use a Leash. Leashes are still mandatory training tools. You’ll want to continue to use them for guiding your dog in training.
- Time It Perfectly. The important thing to remember with clicker dog training is to get the timing of your clicks right. You have to use the clicker to click as soon as your dog gives you the behavior you’re looking for.
- Use Lots of Small Treats. Make sure you have plenty of treats for your dog so you can repeat the exercises again and again. However, the treats should be very tiny so your dog won’t fill up on them. If your dog fills up quickly on treats, he won’t be interested in continuing.
For more dog training resources, check out our list of the top dog training books and see our curation collection of free online dog training videos!