Dog training has made leaps in bounds from the old days of compulsion training. We now have at our disposal many great reward based options for training our dogs. And one very important tool is the clicker. Before I go into how to introduce your dog to a clicker and what it can help with in your training, I want to talk about why I feel a clicker is a useful tool.

Clickers are used to mark a desired behavior in the dog. When the dog does the desired behavior you are asking, a signal is clearly used to mark that exact moment. The dog learns that when that signal is given a reward will follow. This is called Marker Training. In Marker Training the main rule is to be very clear with your dog. Each and every time you give the signal or mark that behavior you MUST reward the dog. In the same token you also have to be clear and precise with your timing of the mark. This always reminds me of a friend who had trained her poodles using Marker Training, she had at one point given the mark at the wrong time and rewarded the dog for kicking out its back leg as it laid down. Each time thereafter when she asked for this certain behavior the dog would kick out it’s back leg. A true testament to how well Marker Training works but also to correct timing.

Now that we have a little clearer picture of what Marker Training is, I want to explain why I feel it is one of the greatest tools in dog training today. I feel there is no other tool, including your voice, that can make the same consistent sound that a clicker does. There is something about the sound of the click that attracts the dog’s attention and gains focus. You will see for yourself after just one session how well the dog tunes into the metallic click of the clicker. Another thing I really love about the clicker is that when it is used, we remain silent. I strongly feel that we as humans do WAY too much talking to our dogs. Dogs are visual animals and watch body language and gestures, our constant talking is only distracting to them.

I do believe that there are certain behaviors that are best taught with a clicker. Among them are retrieves, articles, focus, and positioning. These behaviors are best trained while the dog is in a very calm state of mind. Dogs learn intricate behaviors best when they are calm and able to concentrate. That is also why a clicker is best, versus a ball or other high stimulus reward, a clicker keeps the dogs focus calm and attentive.

Now to introduce your dog to the clicker. There is no age limits on when you can teach a dog with a clicker. Young and old can benefit from clicker training. It is first started someplace fairly quiet and comfortable for the dog. Inside in the kitchen is a great place to teach this. In the beginning all we want the dog to do is realize that each time he hears that click sound he gets a treat. Easy as that, click, give a treat, click, give a treat. Keep repeating this until you see that he has it. Then you can start to ask for a little focus. When he looks at you, click and reward. As this continues after a couple of sessions you can start to lengthen the time you ask for focus, also lengthen the time by split seconds that you give the treat after the click. A reward should always follow the click but we do want the dog to learn that sometimes it might take a moment or two to get the treat or reward out. From here you can start teaching more behaviors. Have fun and enjoy the time with your dog. Nothing is more rewarding to them than spending time with you and pleasing you.

I will go into more depth of certain behaviors to teach using a clicker in the next article.

Thanks for reading, and here’s to the dogs in our lives,