Clicker Training for Dogs: The Beginner's Guide

Updated: Feb 26

"For many pet owners, teaching their dogs basic commands such as sit and stay can be a difficult, repetitive and frustrating task to teach.


 

Dogitivity Dog Trainer Christina Bluhme and Black labrador puppy

Christina Bluhme

I'm a dog lover, a dog sports enthusiast and a dog trainer based in Surrey, UK. Also, I started this blog as I love sharing relevant, practical puppy and dog training tips. I am the founder of Dogitivity Positive Puppy and Dog Training, Surrey, UK.


 

Clicker training for dogs: The beginner's guide


Green and yellow dog training Clicker
Dogitivity, Dog Training Surrey

"For many pet owners, teaching their dogs basic commands such as sit and stay can be a difficult, repetitive and frustrating task to teach.

Why not teach your dog or puppy polite manners in a fun and engaging way? Your answer is clicker training!

Clicker training is a positive reinforcement technique that a clicker signals when the dog has performed the desired behaviour. This simple methodology is easy to learn, easy to implement, and provides a way for both the owner and the dog to have fun while training."

Puppies love it. Older dogs learn new tricks. You can use clicker training for teaching any animal.


Table of Contents

Mark & Reward

Why Clicker training

Fix unwanted behaviour by clicking desirable behaviour.

When can I start Clicker training my puppy?

Which behaviours can I teach my dog using clicker training?

Which behaviours can I teach using a Clicker?

Why Use a clicker in dog training?

What is the Meaning of the Click?

How to introduce clicker training?

The Basics: Video Tutorial

Clicker training tips

My dog is afraid of the clicker.

My dog doesn't like Clicker training

How to end a clicker training session.

Which clicker should I choose?




Mark & Reward: Using Clicker Training to Communicate with Your Dog


The clicker is simply a small plastic device that makes a distinct clicking sound. The click becomes a way to communicate with your dog to help him/her understand what you are teaching.

Clicker training is an effective method of positive reinforcement.

The science of animal learning states that rewarded behaviours are more likely to be repeated in the future.

Fix unwanted behaviour by clicking desirable behaviour.


Clicker training focuses only on rewarding your dog's positive behaviours. You will find that the naughty habits diminish by teaching positive alternative behaviours.

The better a clicker trainer you are, the less you will regress to the use of positive punishment.




Black and tan Alsatian puppy pulls on lead
Dogitivity, Dog Training Surrey

Clicker training is an effective way to teach your dog to perform desired behaviours, it is a great way to motivate your dog to learn, and it is a fun way to spend time and bond with your dog.

Learn how clicker training can help you communicate more clearly with your dog and make dog training much more effective.


When can I start Clicker training my puppy?

The short answer is: "Begin Clicker training and positive reinforcement training from the minute your puppy arrives in your home".

We are from the very beginning busy teaching our puppies what they cannot do in our homes, and we are always watching our puppy, to be able to correct and redirect him when he does something wrong. Why not instead tell our puppy when they do something good?

  • Do you remember reinforcing when your puppy is calmly chewing a chew toy?

  • When he sits politely instead of jumping?

  • When he goes quietly to the door to greet visitors instead of barking?



Especially when you are clicker training a puppy, it is important to keep sessions ultra-short. Count 10 treats. If you haven't used the treats after 2-3 minutes, you need to question your expectations and lower the difficulty of the behaviour that you are trying to teach. We want engaged, confident puppies motivated to learn and know how to earn a treat.

Puppies have tiny stomachs and get full very quickly. Please use treats no bigger than pea-size. Most puppies (and dogs) loves soft treats. You can easily use human food leftovers or make healthy treats. The treats you are using throughout the day should be withdrawn from your puppies daily served food.



Which behaviours can I teach my dog using clicker training?

A clicker is efficient for teaching most behaviours. You will quickly notice that your dog gets really excited by just watching you getting ready with the clicker and treats. The adrenaline rush that your dog experiences can make it challenging for you and your dog. Teach your dog stationary behaviours such as a calm settle on a mat, a stay or a wait while he is super excited isn't ideal.

I recommend that you use the clicker primarily for teaching behaviours that require movement and action rather than a passive wait, here are a few ideas for you:

  • Sit

  • Down

  • Loose Leash Walk

  • Recall Training

  • Leave It

  • Retrieve

  • Advanced tricks: High five, get onto different obstacles and surfaces, turn in a circle, or weave through your legs.

  • To fix undesired behaviours: Jumping, barking, pulling.

Have you read "The 6 most important behaviors to teach a puppy "? You might find the blog post helpful.


Why Use a clicker in dog training?

A clicker is an effective tool in positive reinforcement training. A clicker is not a magical tool but a device that marks the exact moment your dog is performing a desirable behaviour.

It is not a fancy gimmick but an effective reward-based training tool. The Clicker's distinct noise gives you a remarkable opportunity to pinpoint precisely the second where the behaviour happens. For example, if you are teaching your dog to sit, click the moment your dog's behind is on the floor.




But why not just use praise instead of the Clicker? You could use praise, but it isn't clear communication to your dog. Most of us communicate with our dogs using praise throughout the day. Unlike your voice, clickers produce an easily recognisable noise. That's why praise isn't clear communication. Praise is not specific or timely, which can cause frustration in dogs as you don't provide them with the exact information of how to earn the next dog treat.

You are not only providing your dog with clear communication when you use the clicker in dog training. You are also introducing a new fun game; most dogs love to learn and engage with their owners. Clicker training strengthens your bond, and you will experience a happy dog that loves to engage with you.




How to introduce clicker training?

Dog training pouch, dog training treats and a dog training clicker
Dogitivity, Dog Training Surrey

Are you ready to start training your dog? in addition to your Clicker, you will need some delicious healthy dog treats and a treat pouch for Clicker training.

What is the Meaning of the Click?

The first step to using a clicker effectively is to teach your dog what a click means. In dog training called "loading the Clicker."

The clicker in itself has no effect if it is not paired with a delicious dog treat.

Count 15 treats, click and then immediately feed. After a few repetitions, your dog will learn to predict that a click means a dog treat is coming.



The Basics of Clicker Training: Video Tutorial



You are now ready to onboard your clicker training journey and put the clicker into practice when your dog understands and is being consistent in showing attention to and recognition of the click.



8 Tips for getting started with clicker training


  • The first step is teaching your dog how the clicker works. Click and immediately feed your dog a high-value dog treat.

  • Your timing of the click is essential. What you click for is what you get. Click while the desirable behaviour is happening, not after. The click ends the behaviour, and the treat delivery timing isn't as important.

  • Click when your dog is doing something that you like, for example, sitting, looking at you or lying down. This technique utilized is called capturing.

  • Keep the dog training sessions fun, short and intense.

  • Click and feed a treat for small increments of the complete behaviour. Build your dog's motivation by making it easy to earn a click and a dog treat.

  • Don't add a verbal cue until your dog performs the desirable behaviour fluently. You risk confusing your dog and slowing down your dog's learning.

  • Most importantly, have fun. If you feel frustrated, put the clicker away, step back and make a new plan.


My dog is afraid of the clicker.

Is your dog backing away with his tail tucked between his legs by the sound of the click r? Then put the clicker away and don't worry, I will introduce you to another effective way of training using positive reinforcement.


Do you remember how I mentioned that a click is to pinpoint that second our dog performs the desired behaviour? We can still pinpoint that instant movement but instead of a click, you can use a short, soft high pitched sound or word. In dog training, we call it a verbal marker my favourite is a high pitched "yes" that I only use for letting my dog know when she is doing the right behaviour and has earned a treat, completely the same principle as using the clicker.

Keep your word or sound short, distinct and easily recognisable.



My dog Doesn't Like Clicker Training

Barking, searching for non-existing treats or simply walking out on you during a training session, is your dog's way of telling you that it is time for a rethink. Your dog might either be frustrated because you are asking too much or might be bored because your session is getting too long.

In my anecdotal experience, I find that dogs often become frustrated or bored if your rate of clicks and treats is too low. A low rate of clicks is a clear sign that what you are asking is too difficult for your dog. Rethink how you teach your dog, please consider if:


  • You are asking too much?

  • You are communicating clearly?

  • You are being overly repetitive, asking for the same behaviours again and again?<