How To Use A Clicker For Dogs 

September 2022

Training a new dog can be a fun process. Or it can be stressful. Thankfully, science has brought us new tools designed to make the process of obedience training stress-free. If you are new to clicker training, read on for the top tips on using the clicker for dogs.

What is a clicker?

A clicker (or marker) is a tool used for dog training. Clickers are small plastic devices with a button that, when pressed, make a distinctive clicking sound. Dogs have a fantastic grasp on cause and effect, hence the appeal of clicker training. When dogs begin to associate the sound with a reward, they will feel motivated to pay attention to you when they hear the clicker. Dogs learn to associate the click with the desired behaviour when this sound is associated with a reward in exchange for obeying a behaviour. After a few repetitions, the click quickly becomes the catalyst for the reward. 

Several styles of clickers exist. One type of clicker may be better for you and your pet than others. Some clickers are connected to a leash, which may be best for very active dogs being trained outdoors. Others have a compartment built into the clicker to hide food rewards. As dog clicker training is positive reinforcement, storing the food reward with the clicker can be highly effective. Eventually, dogs understand that moving in the right direction at the right moment, based on your verbal cues, will result in them receiving a click and a treat.

Similar to many other types of training, clickers rely on operant conditioning and positive reinforcement, generally with a food reward, to help dogs learn obedience cues. Clicker training is simple and effective, and because it feels to dogs like a game, it turns movement into an engaging bonding experience.

Unlike other training tools, which sometimes use negative reinforcement (shocks), clickers capitalize on positive reinforcement. The clicker's unmistakable sound tells your dog when a reward is imminent.

How to use the clicker for dogs

Clicker training will help teach your dog to perform commands on cue when you want them to. Introducing clicker training is pretty straightforward. Like in regular training sessions, you give your dog a verbal cue and reward them for performing the target behaviour. 

As always, when training dogs, the proper training context is essential. Your dog needs a calm, relaxed environment, and chaotic or distracting environments may result in unwanted behaviour when you attempt to clicker train.

Imagine you are teaching your dog to sit. Like any other training session, you would tell your dog to sit. However, in this case, "sit" is the verbal cue. The only difference between clicker training and traditional dog training is that when you say the verbal cue, you will press the button on the clicker once the dog sits. At this point, you will quickly give them a treat. Always offer small food rewards to your dog when they perform the particular behaviour you requested.

The clicker's distinctive sound will immediately capture your dog's attention. This is because dogs understand reward systems exceptionally well and are motivated. You can use the clicker to teach your dog new tricks the same way you teach them basic obedience behaviours like "sit" or "stay." As with traditional dog training, practicing simple behaviours when activity using a clicker is essential. Immediately click once the dog has performed the target behaviour (example, sit) and then reward with a treat. It is imperative that when the dog performs the desired behaviour, it is immediately followed by a click and reward. When you add new behaviour to your dog's repertoire of commands, ensure that it is slightly more complicated than the behaviours they already know. Eventually, you can build up to more complex behaviours using clicker training. No matter how elaborate the tricks you teach, the key to successful clicker training is always immediately rewarding dogs for correct or good behaviour. 

Successful clicker training needs to be performed correctly to be successful. With this in mind, it is essential to point out that a common misconception about dog training with a clicker exists, and this can cause clicker training to be less practical than it should be. Over time, many dog parents believe that the clicker itself is enough to teach their dog. They eventually begin to limit the number of times their dog receives a treat for doing the desired behaviour, and gradually, they find that clicker training becomes less effective. Training your dog with a clicker is contingent upon the "click and reward" format. There must be a treat, and your dog must receive it immediately as a consequence of good behaviour. Your dog understands that performing that particular behaviour will pleasure them when they hear the verbal cue and sound. If you remove the joys too quickly, the positive reinforcement aspect disappears, and so does your dog's motivation. If you are concerned about your dog eating too many treats during clicker training sessions, try using their kibble. 

The benefits of marker training

Numerous studies have shown that clicker training is one of the fastest and most successful ways to teach your dog desirable behaviour. Dogs who start clicker training learn quickly compared to dogs trained without a clicker, and what you teach them is more likely to be retained over a more extended period.

Clicker training, or marker training, is one of the most effective ways to train a dog because it allows you to practice desired behaviours in the simple, positive training context of "click and reward." This simple positive reinforcement training is one of the best ways to ensure your dog learns good behaviour, making the process fun and rewarding for the trainer.


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