Training your pup can be a challenge, so it's important to get the right tools for the job. Dog...
How To Use Dog Training Clicker
In this post, we'll learn how a dog training clicker can help you with your dog's training. We'll cover all the steps of getting both you and your pup up-to-speed with dog training and master some new tricks.
What Is Clicker Training?
A clicker is a small hand-held device with a button which, when pressed, makes a distinctive click noise. Over the course of this training, we will teach your dog to associate that noise with something wonderful, like a tasty snack. Once this is done, you will be able to use the clicker to mark the exact moment your dog does what you want. They will understand that whatever they were doing in the moment they heard the click is the behaviour that earns the snack, even if the snack follows a few seconds later.
For example, when teaching a cue like Sit, you want to capture the exact moment your dog’s butt hits the ground. They may do a bunch of different things at the same time though – some dogs bark, or wave a paw, for example. Some even pre-emptively go into a down. They may not find it easy to distinguish between the behaviour you want and everything else they’re throwing at the wall. The clicker will help you pinpoint the butt-hitting-the-ground element.
If you find it difficult to operate a clicker, or your dog is worried about the noise it makes, you can also use a marker word. This follows the exact same steps, but substitutes the word “Yes” for the noise of the clicker.
What are the best clicker training commands?
Teaching your dog to sit is a great place to start with your training. For example, teaching your dog to sit at kerbs can make crossing roads safer and asking your dog to sit when greeting people means they're less likely to jump up.
Teaching your dog to lay down can help to keep them safe when you're outside and calm them down when you are in a restaurant. We'll cover how to do Down with the dog training clicker below.
When you train a dog to bow, you get several benefits. A bow with the front end down and the back end up, is what most dogs do to initiate a play from another dog or person. The bow should naturally put your dog in a calm and playful mood. For health benefits, a bow is also a form of stretching that your dog does upon first waking up. The stretch is good for their spine, joints and muscles. It is also a calming behaviour when done slowly like a stretch. As dogs age, they tend to stretch less. Having taught them to bow, you will now be able to help an older dog stretch their ageing body.
"Give paw" is a fun trick that helps develop trust between you and your pup. This trick will help your dog to stay calm during vet visits, help you or your groomer to trim the pup’s nails and clean your dog’s paws.
Teaching your dog to stop where they are and wait for you – but not run back to you – is an absolute beauty of exercise. Imagine the lead snaps and your dog runs across a busy road, somehow avoiding being hit. Now you are on opposite sides of the cars. What do you do? You can't recall, that might be disastrous! You need your dog to drop anchor, to stay stationary until you can go and rescue them. You need an Emergency Stop!
How to train your dog with a clicker?
Good timing is vital when using a marker – think of it as taking a photo of the behaviour.
If you’re a little too fast, or too slow, the snapshot will be of something you don’t want. This first task is a practice just for you.
Have the clicker ready in your hand. Your dog should NOT be present. Bounce a tennis ball off a surface (such as a table or a wall) at random intervals, at varying speeds and with varied force and then click when it hits the floor.
Click the instant the ball hits the floor.
This task teaches your dog that the noise of the clicker predicts a snack. Start in a room in which your dog is calmly comfortable.
Have the clicker and a selection of small, tasty snacks to hand.
When your dog is close by, click the clicker once, and immediately give your dog a snack. They don’t need to do anything to earn the treat – all we’re teaching here is that the noise means something tasty will be delivered to their waiting mouth.
Repeat this throughout the day at random intervals.
Next, we’ll show your dog that no matter where they are, the click has the same significance.
Carry the clicker and a selection of small, tasty snacks with you around the house. It is important that you don’t let your dog see you getting snacks; we want the noise to come first, then the snacks to arrive.
When your dog is close by, click the clicker once, and immediately give your dog a snack. They don’t need to do anything to earn the treat – all we’re teaching here is that the noise means something tasty.
Repeat this throughout the day at random intervals and all across your home.
Now we’ll move to more distracting environments, such as your garden, or out on a calm street. Carry the clicker and a selection of small, tasty easily accessible snacks with you.
When your dog is close by, click the clicker once, and immediately reach into your treat bag or pouch and give your dog a snack. Again they don’t need to do anything to earn the treat – all we’re teaching here is that the noise means something tasty irrespective of where you are.
Repeat this at random intervals, and allow your dog to return to whatever they were doing before they got the treat.
Clicker training vs treat training?
A dog training clicker works as a secondary reinforcer. In other words, the clicker only tells your pup that a treat is coming. This created conditioning for your dog: click = treat. You can use a verbal cue like the word "Yes" instead of a clicker, but you still need to give treats afterwards.
In some training activities you can also use toys, but keep in mind that your dog can get overly excited with a toy, which won't work well if you are trying to get them concentrated.
Is clicker training bad?
There is a myth that clicker training is bad. It's definitely not the case. The dog training clicker works well with your dog as long as you use positive reinforcement. In other words, when you make a click you give a reward and not a punishment. It is also important to remember that the dog training clicker can’t be used to stop bad behaviours, you can use it only to reward the right behaviours.