The Ultimate Guide to Clicker Training (Beginner Friendly)
What is Clicker training?
Okay, clicker training is one of my favorite method that I use to train my dogs. It is also one of the most popular ways in dog training that use rewards such as food or toys. It applies the positive reinforcement method from the principles of Operant conditioning, that I talked about it here.
Clicker training can be used in many ways besides teaching your dog some amazing tricks. It can help shape your dog’s behavior or even solve behavior problems like aggression.
What is a Clicker?
A clicker is a device which makes a unique click sound.
It tells your dog that you like what he is doing and he’s getting a reward for it.
Why clicker train your dog?
Clicker training lets your dog instantly know which behavior earned him the reward. This is because you click first and reward him immediately right after the desired behavior or action. And because your dog knows which action earned him the reward, he will learn quickly and eagerly.
Because we use positive reinforcement in clicker training, you don't have to punish your dog for his mistake. Developing a healthy relationship between you and your dog.
You don't need a lot of experience in clicker training to effectively train your dog, with the right instructions, you can learn it easily.
You can use this method to train all kinds of dog and puppies. From the youngest to the oldest, smallest to the biggest and every kind of breeds. Which is why clicker training is one of my favorite training method.
It can also help remove unwanted behavior. How? Its simple. If you reward your dog for the desired behavior and don't reward him for the unwanted behavior. He will eventually forget about the unwanted behavior.
The clicker is a very effective tool in training your dog because of the sound it makes. It sounds unique and the same no matter what.
Because clicker training always involves a treat. Your dogs will enjoy doing the training as much as you do.
Before we start on how this work, let’s clear up a confusion.
Many people think that clicker training is bribery because you’re giving your dog a treat, it’s a bribe. No it’s not, bribery is using a treat to have your dog obey you. What we’re doing here is using the treat as a positive reinforcement to increase the likelihood of the behavior again.
Clicker training Pros & Cons
- Easy to use
- Rewarding atmoshpere
- Builds good relationship
- No punishment involved
- Reward based
- Needs a clicker
- Requires practise
How does it work?
Since clicker training works using positive reinforcement to reward your dog’s behavior. It’s a really simple process.
Start by charging the clicker. Charging the clicker? What's that?
You might get confused at first and thought charging the clicker meant like charging your phone or something
Nope, charging the clicker means before starting the training you’re warming up your dog to the clicker by telling him that you like his behavior with a click and he’s getting a reward for it.
Find a quiet room and sit with your dog, remember to have some delicious treats with you. Press the clicker and give your dog a treat afterwards. Some clickers can be loud, so try to muffle the sound of the clicker if it's your dog’s first time.
Keep in mind that you are clicking for the behavior you want.
Once you finished this process, you can start teaching your dog some basic obedience.
How to apply it?
There are 5 ways to train your dog's behavior using the clicker training method. I'll list them below and go through each one of them.
Shaping basically is you rewarding your dog every time he's close to achieving the desired behavior you want.
Here's an example, if you want to teach your dog to roll over:
- You click and reward him for lying down.
- You click and reward him for rolling on his back.
- You click and reward him for lying on his back.
- Finally, you click and reward him for rolling over.
I do each action step by step to complete the full behavior, from lying down to rolling on his back to lying on his back. That’s what you should be doing as well.
You see how I always keep rewarding him, because that’s how positive reinforcement work. Don’t forget to click before the reward.
Keep repeating this process to shape your dog’s new behavior.
- Requires your dog to think
- Takes time
- Need good clicking skills
- Need good observation skills
- Dog may get frustrated if you're slow
Luring is rather easy and simple. You basically lure your dog with a treat inside your hand until he has accomplish the desired behavior.
Here’s an example, if you want to teach your dog to spin:
- Place a treat inside your hand.
- Hold it in front of your dog.
- Lure your dog with your hand in a circular motion.
- Click and reward him once he completes the motion.
It's that easy.
- Dog friendly
- Beginner friendly
- Treat reliant
- Little thinking by your dog
Capturing is pretty tricky, you have to be very observant. You wait until your dog performs the desired behavior you want, and you have to click immediately and reward him.
Here’s an example, if you want to teach your dog to lay down:
- Keep a close eye on your dog.
- Wait until he lays down.
- When he lays down, clicker immediately and reward him.
It’s actually pretty simple once you get the hang of it. The tricky part is waiting for your dog to perform the behavior or action you want.
- Beginner friendly
- Requires your dog to think
- Good for training unusual behaviors
- Need to be paitent
- Should know when to click
Modeling is a bit hard. Modeling is teaching your dog to model or copy your behavior. It isn't easy for dogs to learn new behavior by copying us humans, so I use a well trained dog instead of myself. It allows your dog to learn at a much quicker pace.
Here’s an example, if you want to train your dog to sit:
For easier reading, I’ll call the well trained dog, Max and the untrained dog, Cody.
- Ask Max to sit.
- Click and reward Max.
- Ask Cody to sit.
- Click and reward Cody if he performs the action.
Keep trying until your dog performs the behavior or action you want. This method is especially helpful if you already have a dog who is well trained.
- Need Max
The last of the five. Molding is an easy one. It basically means that you help your dog perform the desired behavior by physically moving his body into a correct position.
For example, if you want to your dog to shake hand:
- Take your dog's hand.
- Shake hand with your dog.
- Click and reward him.
It’s a straightforward method, but your dog may not always like it.
- Dog can get annoyed
- Little thinking done by your dog
4 Basic Commands
I hope you get how powerful clicker training can be. Now i’ll teach you 4 basic commands that you can teach your dogs which are:
Okay let’s begin with teaching your dog to sit. All you have to do is click when your dog sits and reward him, sound easy right? Have a treat and hold it in front of your dog's nose and raise it until you lure him to a sit position. Repeat the process several times and start adding in a cue word "sit"
Teaching your dog to come to you is easy. Recalling your dog using come can stop him from chasing animals or cars, which can be very dangerous. To begin, click whenever your dog takes a step towards you and give him a treat. Distance yourself from your dog and repeat the process. Start adding a cue word “come” later on.
Before teaching your dog to stay, he should know how to sit. To teach your dog to stay. Have him sit down and start clicking and rewarding him for staying. Start with little duration and increase it later on. Repeat the process and start adding cue word “stay”.
Start by having your dog in a sit position. Hold the treat in front of your dog and slowly lower it down under his nose. When he's on the ground, click and treat afterwards. Repeat the process and start adding the cue word “down” later on.
Clicker Training Tips
Here are some tips from me:
- Always follow a treat with a click no matter what, even by accident.
- Never use the clicker to get your dog's attention.
- Practice in short session instead of long session.
- Have a treat pouch to make it easier for you, it's not necessary but makes your life easier.
Q: Why can't I just use my voice saying good, yes, etc instead of using the clicker?
A: Yes you can but the clicker is much more effective than our voice. The click sound is easy to identify and is unique than your everyday words.
Q: My dog doesn't like or eat the treats I give him.
A: Find a better treat for your dog such as Greenies Pill. Train him when he's hungry, never train him after his meal because he'll be satisfied. If your dog still doesn't like the treat, you could try using your dog's favorite toy instead of a treat.
Q: Do I have to use the clicker and treat forever?
A: No, you don't need to. We use clicker training to teach your dog new behavior and once they've learn the behavior, it isn't needed anymore.
Q: How do I fix my dog's bad behavior with clicker training?
A: Here's an example on how to fix bad behavior. If your dog goes all over a visitor. Next time if a visitor comes again, click when he behaves himself, instead of shouting and scolding your dog.
Let's wrap this up with a question.
What do you guys think about the clicker training? Comment down below!