Dog Training

How to clicker train a dog. The training method you need to know about.

How to clicker train a dog. The training method you need to know about.

If you’ve heard people raving about clicker training for dogs and wondered if it might be worth trying with your canine companion, you’ve come to the right place. Clicker training can be used for dogs of all ages and can help with teaching basics, such as recall, and also for fun tricks (should you and your dog be in the mood to show off a little!).

What is clicker training and how does clicker training work?

A clicker is a small plastic box which makes a, you guessed it, click, when pressed. This click tells your dog they have done something good and a reward is on its way. It’s a positive training method that shows your dog that good things happen when they do good things.

Don’t forget the basics

As with any training method, it’s important to set yourself up for success beforehand, and if you haven’t already read Dog training tips to make life easier, now is a great time to do so. Here’s a little reminder of the key points:

  • Training sessions should be fun for both teacher and student

  • Short training sessions stop your dog feeling overwhelmed (or bored!)

  • Rewards are important

  • Try to eliminate distractions at first

  • Dogs respond best to positive reinforcement

  • Punishing a dog doesn’t work and can make them frightened of you

  • Patience and consistency will win out

How to clicker train in six easy steps

1. Choose your rewards

Clicker training relies on rewards so, before you start, it’s important to choose what treats you’re going to use. Because you’re likely to use a fair few, you’ll want to use something small and high-quality. Our Tasty Minis fit the bill perfectly and come in three great flavours: Beef & Cheese, Beef & Poultry and Chicken & Duck.

2. Familiarise yourself with the clicker

Before you get the clicker anywhere near your dog, it’s a great idea to get used to it yourself. Practise clicking at the exact second you mean to, maybe by having a TV programme on and clicking every time the actors say a certain word.

3. Show your dog the clicker

Once you’re comfortable with the clicker, it’s time to show it to your furry friend. Try to avoid pointing it at them or holding it like a remote, both of which could be off-putting to your dog.

4. Show your dog what the clicker means

With a treat in one hand and the clicker in the other, click the clicker once and immediately give your dog the treat. Repeat this a few times and your dog will soon learn to associate the click with a treat.

5. Use the clicker as part of training

The next step is to incorporate the clicker into training, simply giving your dog a click followed by a reward when they perform the behaviour you are asking them to.

6. Be consistent

You’ve taught your dog that a click equals a reward so it’s important to stick to that rule even if you click by accident.

The golden rule of clicker training: Timing is everything

It’s important to click the clicker at exactly the right moment. Think of it almost as if you are trying to take a photo of the behaviour you’re encouraging. Maybe you’re trying to teach your furry friend to sit, for example, in which case you need to click as soon as their bum hits the floor, and then give them a reward within a few seconds. Don’t worry if this sounds challenging – the more you practise, the quicker you’ll get with your clicks.

What age should you start clicker training?

You can clicker train a dog of any age, whether they’re a young pup or a senior citizen. The only difference? A puppy might pick up the new skills more quickly. We all tend to learn a bit faster when we’re young!

How long does it take to clicker train a dog?

Your dog is a unique individual with a unique personality so it’s impossible to say how long clicker training will take, especially as that is also affected by what you’re trying to teach your furry friend. As a rule of paw, most behaviours can be taught within a few weeks of regular, consistent training.

Can I clicker train a nervous or noise-sensitive dog?

If your dog is particularly skittish or noise-sensitive, it’s possible that the noise of the clicker may frighten them. If this is the case, try muffling the sound by clicking from inside your pocket.

Do I continue clicker training forever?

Clicker training is something you use to teach a dog a new behaviour so, once they have learned that behaviour, the clicker isn’t needed anymore. Praise and rewards will always go down well though. When you want to teach your dog something new, it’s time to bring the clicker out again.

Filled with training inspiration? Check out How to teach your dog to sit and Getting your dog to come when they’re called.