How To Train Your Dog Using A Clicker

Positive reinforcement FTW 💪

Clicker training, also known as mark and reward, is a form of positive reinforcement training that can make training your dog a lot easier.

Basically, you use a little clicker to create a sound cue in the exact moment your dog does something good, like a new trick or a positive behavior. Your dog will learn that that sound means he’s being a good boy, which makes it easier for him to learn.

It can be a lot of fun for your dog and a great bonding experience — as well as a super useful method when it comes to training your dog on everything from basic commands to more advanced tricks.

So to explain more about what clicker training is and how it could benefit you and your pup, The Dodo reached out Juliana Willems, head trainer at JW Dog Training in Washington, D.C., for some insight.

What is clicker training?

“Clicker training is a form of positive reinforcement training,” Willems said.

A clicker is a small plastic device that makes a distinct clicking noise when you press it.

Like this clicker from Chewy for $4.99

“You click the moment your dog does a behavior you like, and then you always follow that click up with a treat,” Willems explained.

It’s a way to communicate to your dog after they do a preferred action, and basically say, “Yes! That’s exactly the behavior I want!”

“Think of your clicker as taking a picture in time of the good behavior, so your dog knows exactly what is earning them the food reward,” Willems said.

Benefits of clicker training

According to Willems, clicker training comes with many benefits.

  • It’s fun for you and your dog
  • It can create a dog who is an enthusiastic participant in the training process
  • It allows you to be clear in your communication, which helps your dog learn more quickly and enjoy the training process more

“I highly recommend clicker training for any dog learning any behavior!” Willems said.

How to use clicker training?

When using clicker training, Willems recommends that the clicker sound is always paired with a food reward. “You can click and treat any behavior you like and want to see more of,” Willems said.

For example, you would click when your dog's hind end hits the ground after you give the cue "sit” — followed up with a yummy treat.

Like these training dog treats from Chewy for $14.99

You can also click and treat good behaviors your dog offers that you didn't ask for.

Over time, you can gradually space out the food rewards (and even the clicker) so your dog learns to sit with just a verbal or hand cue.

“For example, if your dog chooses to look up at you waiting for information during a training session, you can capture that behavior with a click and treat, since it's a great choice for your dog to make that you'd love to see more of,” Willems said.

Clicker training isn’t just a great way to mark and reward your pup during training sessions, but it’s another tool that can help bond you both together. And really, that’s all you ever need.

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