What is Clicker Training?

What is clicker training?
What is clicker training?

There are several ways to train a dog and in this post I am going to cover Clicker Training, what it is, its advantages and disadvantages. Clicker training has become popular during the last years and many people report success with clicker training. It is furthermore a humane and mild dog training method and not difficult to use. So what is clicker training and how is it used?

Defining Clicker Training

To clicker train your dog you need a “clicker”. This is kind of logic but what is a clicker? The clicker is a small device made of plastic and steel and when push on a button it will emit a distinctive “click” sound. The clicker is used to mark when the dog has done something good. So if you are teaching your dog sit, at the very moment his bottom touches the floor you push on the clicker. Then you praise and reward your dog. So the clicker is used for that, marking when the dog is performing something good and doing it at the exact moment your dog performs the act.
So what is the point of using a clicker? Well let’s go back to basics here. When you are training a dog you need to tell your dog that it has done what you expect from it and this has to be done at the very moment your dog has performed it . For example, you give your dog the command “down” (to make your dog lie down) and at the very moment your dog is touching the ground you “mark” this by saying “Yeees” or “good” or something in a happy voice. This is the marker and it will let your dog know that she done what you asked of her. The marker has to be given at the very moment your dog has done what you asked of her or in the following three seconds otherwise the dog will not know what she did well. Timing is very important here.

This is the advantage of using a clicker. When you are using a “verbal marker” (using your voice saying yeees or goood) then the tone of your voice might differ from time to time and it will not sound exactly the same every time. Dogs are very sensitive to this and could become uncertain if they have performed well or not as your marker do not sound the same as it did last time you used it.

With a clicker, you will not have this problem as the clicker will sound the same every time. Then there is the timing. Like mentioned, you have to mark desired behavior of your dog at the exact moment she performs it, and this is easier to do when you just have to click a button instead of using your voice.
Often when using a clicker to train a dog, it is complemented with a treat. So the dog performs the act, hears the click and is then rewarded with a small treat. Note that a treat in this case do not necessarily have to be food but it can also be attention, caresses or play. The idea is to make the dog associate the sound of the clicker with something good.
This is called “Positive Re-inforcement”, making a dog associating following a command with something good.

Below you will find a video showing how the clicker is used

Advantages and disadvantages with clicker training

Like with all training methods there are advantages and disadvantages. There are people who like this method and there are people who doesn’t. First, there is one thing to point out here and that is that a clicker is just a tool used to mark when a dog has done something good and that when using a clicker you will still need to teach your dog the different commands. Clicker training is really like reward training with the addition of a clicker.

Now some people do not like the idea of carrying a clicker with them all the time but prefer using their voices to mark when the dog has done well. Others argue that a dog should follow the commands given out of respect for its owner and not because he/she wants a treat.

Those who are for Clicker Training say it is an effective and easy way to train your dog and one which could easily be used by less experienced dog owners.

What I think of clicker training

What is Clicker Training?
What is Clicker Training?

Clicker Training is an easy to use method that works well for many people and it is also humane and gentle for the dog so in my eyes clicker training is fine as a training method for dogs. I would however recommend that you learn as much as possible about your dog and its behavior as this will make you understand each other much better and part from making training easier you will also bond with your dog and get closer to her. My recommended method of dog training will still be dog whispering even though this method requires a little more from you than clicker training does.

I hope you enjoyed this article, you can share on social media by using the buttons on the right side of the screen. If you have any comments, suggestions and/or if you want to share your own experience of clicker training, please write them below.

Comments 8

  • I love the idea of clicker training. It is such a simple yet consistent method. I’ve never tried it myself with my dogs, however. Perhaps one day, if I’m to get another dog, I’ll commit to that method of training.

    And as you said, it’s very humane and gentle. Super important to me.

    • Yes it is good method. Both simple to use and effective. However I would say that dog whispering is the best method of all. However it is a little more demanding than clicker training.

      All dog training methods should be humane and gentle, it is important to me to.

      Cheers,

      Jojo

  • Very interesting review on the clicker!

    Just wondering how the clicker helps train the dog better then just regular praising and treats?

    Is it a calming sound? or is it just a click?

    It sounds very interesting, but how much faster will the dog catch on to commands with the clicker?

    TIA

    • The advantage with using a clicker is that you can mark when your dog has performed well at the exact moment he/she does it. When you use your voice to mark wanted behavior then the timing will not be as exact and not as consistent as with a clicker. Your voice is always a little different from time to time and dogs are sensitive to this.

      It is very hard to say how much quicker a dog will learn the commands if you are using a clicker. For some dogs it makes a big difference and with other dogs, using your voice as a marker will work just as well.

      The clicker emits a simple “clicking sound”.

  • What a great site! I love dogs. I’ve owned dogs all my life, and you are so right about the inconsistency of praise and how sometimes it can confuse or discourage a dog. I have a dog right now that knows five commands, sit, lay, roll, speak, and stay; but she gets confused a lot of the time at verbal commands and ends up going through her whole repertoire of tricks until she sees that she gets it right. Maybe some refresher training with a clicker could clean up her rough edges. She is such a smart and good dog. Anyway, I just wanted to let you know how much I like your site; I also read the article on dog whispering, it was great. You know your stuff.

    • Thank you soo much for your kind words and comments.

      The tone of the voice and the way you say the command is of great importance. If you give the command sit in a weak uncertain voice then your dog propably won’t do nothing whereas if you the word “guitar” (or any other word) in a calm but firm voice your dog will propably sit. The tone of the voice and your confidence is important to a dog.

      The clicker is of course not there to give commands but to mark when the dog has performed well but even in this case it is important to consistent and of course the click will always sound the same your voice will always differ a little.

  • That’s so interesting. I never thought to use clicker training with dogs but it is a common training method for horses and I am very familiar with this method for them. Again, the personality of the particular horse matters. As with horses and even humans, I imagine that not one method works best for all dogs.

    • It does work for almost all dogs but like you mention, dogs have different personalites and therefore the training has to be adapted to the dog.

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