How to use a clicker for dog training: Does it work?

Clicker training is an incredibly popular way to get your dog well-trained. It makes sense, considering how effective and easy it is to do, but you should know how to do it properly before you give it a go.

Clicker training for dogs can be very effective if done properly.
Clicker training for dogs can be very effective if done properly.  © 123RF / Rodimovpavel

Dog owners often go for clicker training when they want their pooch to behave better, a sign that this is a fantastic teaching method.

If you're looking to get your canine companion to obey commands or, perhaps, complete tricks, then it's time to give a click a go.

It is true that dogs are individuals, meaning that each pooch will take a different amount of time to get themselves in line, but the clicker method is a good tool to conjure up good behavior even in the naughtiest of puppies. After all, positive reinforcement is always better than the alternative!

Dog gives owner serious attitude after time apart!
Dogs Dog gives owner serious attitude after time apart!

In this dog guide, we'll explain how to use a clicker for dog training. How does it work, is it worth it, and why is it so successful?

Dog clicker trainer for beginners: What is it and does it work?

Clicker training is a great way to reinforce desired and positive behavior.
Clicker training is a great way to reinforce desired and positive behavior.  © 123RF / Marctran

Dog clicker training is a method that encourages positive and desired behavior via the help of an acoustic signal.

The clicker is a small device featuring a button which sets off a short, sharp sound (hence the "click"). This sound should be triggered when your dog exhibits your desired behavior.

By providing a reward immediately after triggering the clicker's sound, your dog will link not only the click, but also the positive behavior, with the reward.

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This will bring on positive reinforcement and will motivate your pooch to exhibit good behavior.

When should you start dog clicker training?

A dog does not need to be a specific age for clicker training, as you can provide positive conditioning from any age. Of course, it is better if you begin earlier, as this will allow your dog to learn from a young age what is good and what is bad behavior.

Interestingly: Due to older dogs' closer connection with their humans, they sometimes respond even faster to clicker training than younger dogs do.

What is the best dog training clicker?

Make sure you always use the same clicker with your dog.
Make sure you always use the same clicker with your dog.  © 123rf / Djakob

There is no specific clicker that you need to pick up for this to be an effective way of training your beloved doggo. Indeed, it doesn't even need to be expensive. Here are our top-three tips:

Tip 1: Make sure that the clicker you pick up is small and will fit in your pocket. You need it to be handy so you can quickly take it out and have it at the ready.

Tip 2: Make sure to only use one particular clicker, so that the same sound is used every single time. This will be better for conditioning your dog and will reduce the risk of confusion.

Tip 3: Make sure that the clicking sound is loud enough that your dog can hear the sound even a decent distance away.

How to use a clicker for dog training

With this simple four-point plan, you will get your dog used to this new clicker training method:

Point 1 - Linkage: The first thing you need to do is make sure your dog learns that the clicker sound is associated with a positive reward and, therefore, a specific action. The first time you use the clicker, your pet may get a bit confused and surprised, so keeping it consistent is important.

Point 2 - Timing: Give your pet a treat or reward immediately after the click so it will understand the context clearly. The trick is to get your dog's brain thinking "Oh, I did this positive thing, and then the click meant I got a reward, yay!" Click immediately after the behavior and follow that up with a positive reinforcement within a few seconds.

Tip: Make sure you practice your own reaction skills before doing this with your dog. You need to click very precisely. To train yourself, it is a good idea to ask someone to drop something and then click at the precise moment it hits the ground.

Point 3 - Take your time: You must make sure never to overload your dog. Instead, slowly increase the difficulty of the tasks you get your dog to complete during clicker training and pause when you notice your dog getting tired, listless, or confused.

Point 4 - Click and reward: Never use the clicker if there is no reward available, at least until your dog has been well and truly conditioned. If no reward is given from time to time, this may frustrate your dog and may make the whole process seem counterintuitive.

Tip: Rewards don't necessarily have to be food. Actually, sometimes it is better not to be constantly feeding your pooch. Try giving it a toy or a pat instead!

Dog clicker training pros and cons

Click training should, above all, be a lot of fun!
Click training should, above all, be a lot of fun!  © 23rf / Melanierb

There are a variety of negatives and positives when it comes to clicker training your dog. In some ways, the method can be extremely effective, but it does have its downsides. Let's take a look at the pros and cons.

Here are some dog clicker training pros:

  • It requires very few tools and very minimal financial investment
  • Clicker training yields speedy and effective results
  • The click sound provides very quick reinforcement if you have good reflexes
  • Positive reinforcement training will keep the relationship you have with your dog happy instead of fearful
  • The clicker is neutral, and the dog will be emotionally connected with you, not the sound itself
  • Clicker training is incredibly playful and fun

Here are some dog clicker training cons:

  • Not every dog will respond well to clicker training
  • Some dogs may get scared by the sound, especially if it is set too loud
  • Using food and other treats is not always ideal for your dog's health
  • There is the possibility that your dog's good behavior is reliant on the presence of its clicker
  • It can be hard to be precise enough for clicking to be effective
  • Clicker-trained learned behaviors can be easy for a dog to abandon

Dog clicker training is a fun and easy way to improve your pooch's behavior without the need for negative reinforcement.

Puppy and dog clicker training can be incredibly effective!

Clicker training is a great way to get your dog's behavior in line. It's easy, doesn't take too long, and is fun for both parties in this human-canine relationship. It's a great way to play and practice at the same time, doesn't require a large financial investment, and is darn safe. What's not to love?

Make sure to always use the same sound on the clicker, have a great reward available (but try to steer away from giving too much food), and always pay careful attention to your timing. Your dog will be trained like a pro in no time!

Cover photo: 123RF / Rodimovpavel

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