What is a clicker and how do you use it?

So what is a clicker? A clicker is a device used for dog training that makes a clicking sound when you press it.  That sound it what tells your dog “yes” that’s what I want you to do and promises them a reward for a job well done. 

The clicker is a stronger marker than a word such as  “yes” because your dog can interpret sounds 10x faster than spoken words.

What is a Marker? Markers are words or sounds that communicate or signal to the dog that he is doing something correctly.

How do you use it? When using a clicker you push and release the springy end of the clicker making a two toned click, then immediately treat your dog.

Every time you click the clicker you must follow up with a treat even if it was an accident.  The clicker should always mean a reinforcer is coming, if we are inconsistent with reinforcement our dogs will be inconsistent with their behaviors.   Which also means no double clicking, each individual click should earn its own reward.

When using a clicker timing is everything, you must click during the desire behavior not after.  In order to clearly communicate with your dog you must capture the behavior as it is happening. When your dog performs said desired behavior you click and immediately feed a treat.  Feeding a treat right after the click is how you reinforce the desired behavior.

How long should you train? It is always best to Keep your sessions short,  at a maximum of 3 mins per behavior.  You can accomplish a lot of desired behaviors with five 3 min sessions twice daily.  Training should also take place throughout the day by always being on the look out for good behaviors.  You can increase the likelihood of a dog repeating a good behavior by reinforcing your dog every time they do it.  For example if your pup lays down and relaxes while you are eating dinner you can reinforce that calm behavior by clicking your clicker and delivering a couple of high value treats one at a time. 

What types of behaviors can you teach with clicker training? With clicker training you can teach your dog basic obedience, loose leash walking, how to sit to greet guest, impulse control, potty training as well as fix “bad” behaviors.

The possibilities are endless with a clicker and when used properly can help facilitate better training.

April Schrader, CPDT-KA



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