Clicker Basics

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Welcome to using a clicker as a training tool to train your dog!

Yes, it is an extra piece of equipment to handle, but you won’t be sorry! A clicker gives you better timing, greater precision and offers clearer communication that your dog has offered the right behavior. Think of your clicker as a camera; CLICK takes a pic of the behavior that you are going to reinforce.

The clicker is a simple tool used to mark behavior before you deliver the reward to the dog.

The clicker is used immediately before you give the treat so that the dog is crystal clear on why she received the reward. The clicker does not replace the reward. The clicker is not the reward. The clicker is not used to get your dog’s attention. The clicker is your new way of saying “Good Dog! I like what you did!”

Why use a clicker? Why not just say “good dog!” to mark behavior?

Dogs hear our voices all the time. They work very hard to discern what is applicable to them and what is not. The clicker sound is unique and only means one thing – GOOD JOB AND HERE COMES YOUR PAYCHECK!

Can’t I use my voice to mark behavior?

Yes. If you don’t have your clicker handy. A clicker is clearer and faster to the dog, BUT if you want to mark an awesome behavior and you don’t have your clicker, just use the word “YES” or “YAY” with lots of enthusiasm. Pick a one syllable word so that the message is clear. For example, “Wow, what a good doggie you are” is much too long to be a good marker.

Can I only use food with the clicker?

99% of the time the answer is YES, the CLICK should be followed by a very high value food reward. If your dog is completely obsessed by something other than food, such as a ball, you could use that as a reward followed by the click.  Test by showing the dog food in one hand and a ball in the other. What choice did he make?

Can I use praise and petting for a reward?

No. We praise and pet our dogs all time for free. Praise is not an adequate paycheck.

“Charging” the Clicker

First, let’s teach your dog that the clicker means you did something awesome and now you get paid. We do this by pairing the sound of the clicker with a very high value treat. This should be something the dog LOVES. Do not use his usual food. The food treat should be soft and small, about the size of a pea.

  • Step #1: Click!
  • Step #2: Treat!
  • Step #3: Repeat!

For 8 or 10 repetitions, Click/Treat/Repeat while asking your dog for NOTHING. Just get him use to the sound of the clicker and show him that awesome food ALWAYS follows the click. When you CLICK and he looks at you and wags, he has paired the clicker with food. You have successfully “charged” your clicker!

The Name Game

Second, let’s make it simple and play the Name Game.

Call your dog’s name, when he looks at you CLICK! and treat.

  • Step #1: Call Fido’s Name
  • Step #2: Dog looks at you – CLICK!
  • Step #3: Treat
  • Step #4: Repeat!

Note: Don’t ask for sit or down or anything else during this exercise. We are teaching your dog that responding to you earns the CLICK which predicts the treat.

Click on Sit

Third, let’s continue to make it simple. Ask your dog for something else he knows such as Sit. When he responds correctly, CLICK! and treat.

  • Step #1: Ask for a “Sit”
  • Step #2: When your dog’s butt hits the floor – CLICK!
  • Step #3: Treat
  • Step #4: Repeat!

Note: If your dog is new to training and doesn’t know any behaviors to ask for, that’s OK! Stick with the Name Game for now and we’ll use the Clicker to teach Sit and Down, etc. It’s what the clicker tool is for!

Now you are ready to use your clicker for training!

Remember, CLICK! marks the behavior that you are going to give a treat for.

Treat = Paycheck!Save