How To Use A Clicker While Training Your Dog
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 at 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.
The Dodo reached out Juliana Willems, head trainer at JW Dog Training in Washington D.C., and Diana Ludwiczak, a dog trainer at Wolfie’s Place in New York City, to learn more about what clicker training is and how it could benefit you and your pup.
What is clicker training?
Clicker training is an effective, humane way to teach your dog new behaviors. “It’s also easy on the human!” Ludwiczak told The Dodo. “With this method, you can train your pup in just minutes a day using positive reinforcement instead of punishment or negative reinforcement.”
A clicker is a small plastic device that makes a distinct clicking noise when you press it.
“You click the moment your dog does a behavior you like, and then you always follow that click up with a treat,” Willems told The Dodo.
It’s a way to communicate to your dog after he does a preferred action, and to 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
Clicker training allows you to precisely mark the exact behavior you are trying to get your dog to do.
“It is also great for shaping behaviors,” Lugwiczak said. “So you can get a dog to lie down by clicking each successive advance the dog performs towards the down position. You can train a dog faster with a clicker.”
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 clicker train a dog
When first getting your dog accustomed to clicker training, there are some steps you can follow to make the process go smoothly.
Step 1: Make the click have meaning
The first thing you’ll want to do is get your dog used to associating the sound of the clicker with treats.
“So before you even start the clicker training, you would click the clicker then immediately hand the dog a high-value treat,” Lugwiczak said. “Do this 15 times throughout the day for three days straight, and by the end of the three days, your dog will understand that the sound of the click means that a treat is on its way.”
Step 2: Use the clicker for cues he already knows
“Next step is to ask your dog to do something it already knows how to do, like ‘sit’ — as soon as the dog sits, click and then deliver a treat,” Lugwiczak said.
After that, you can begin teaching your dog various things with the clicker.
“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 "down” — followed up with a treat.
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 until 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.
Best dog training clickers
“Most of the clickers out there are good,” Lugwiczak said.
While most commercially available clickers will be perfectly fine for training your dog, make sure you look for ones that make an audible clicking noise and are comfortable for you to hold to encourage its use.
Here are two dog training clickers we recommend:
“I actually prefer this cheap clicker from Amazon,” Lugwiczak said. “I like how it makes a loud, distinctive click.”
This one has a wrist strap so you can easily keep it on yourself during training sessions.
Clicker training isn’t just a great way to mark and reward your pup during training sessions, but it can also help bond you both together. And really, that’s all you ever need.
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