What is Clicker Training?

Updated: Jan 3, 2019

Clicker training is an animal training method based on behavioral psychology. It's also an effective, safe, and humane way to train your dog.


How does clicker training work?

Clicker training uses positive reinforcement in combination with an audible 'click' (or a verbal 'yes') to mark desirable behavior.


After each 'click' a valuable reward is delivered (food, toys, play). Through this process, the dog forms a positive emotional response to the click. 'Click' means something awesome is coming! The click is then used to mark the exact moment the dog performs a correct behavior. A ‘click’ when a dog’s bum touches the ground helps him learn that sit is a behavior you like.


Why the 'click' is important

Dogs can have short attention spans. If you skip the click (or verbal 'yes'), the dog could be doing something else by the time a reward is delivered. While you're digging in your pocket for a treat, your dog may have gotten up from the sit position - and is now standing, scratching, or sniffing. If you deliver a reward 'after the fact', you could be reinforcing sniffing instead of sitting.


The clicker allows you to mark the right behavior (sit), and gives you time to deliver a reward without accidentally reinforcing the wrong behavior. Your dog will learn that the behavior he was doing when he heard the click is what earned him the reward. This reduces confusion and speeds up the learning process.


The Benefits of Clicker Training

  • Accelerated Learning: clicker trained dogs learn new behaviors quickly.

  • Creates a Strong Bond: because it's based on positive reinforcement and force-free principles.

  • Produces Long-Term Recall: once learned, clicker trained behaviors are rarely forgotten.

  • Encourages Initiative & Creativity: clicker trained dogs are creative and skilled at problem solving.

  • Forgiving of Errors: if you click at the wrong time, the worse that can happen is your dog gets a free treat.

  • Creates Enthusiastic Dogs: the learning process is reinforcing, fun, and builds confidence.

The Simplified Clicker Training Process

Create a plan to break the goal behavior into small achievable actions. Decide what behavior you want to click, and begin with these steps:

  1. Watch for the behavior

  2. Mark the behavior with a click or verbal 'yes'

  3. Reinforce the behavior with something your dog loves (food, toys, play etc.)

See clicker training in action as Timber learns to ride a skateboard.

Do you want train your dog using effective and humane clicker methods? Contact me, I'm here to help.

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Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner