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Clicker Training Dogs – Methods, Equipment, Pros, Cons & FAQ

Breeding Business is passionate about all sorts of domesticated pets. They have written dozens of articles across the web.
Published on
Wednesday 16 December 2020
Last updated on
Tuesday 9 May 2023
clicker training dogs
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Clicker training is one of the best methods to help your dog learn tricks, as well as positive or negative behaviors. This is a form of conditioning where the clicker is used as a positive association, and a treat given afterward is positive reinforcement. Using clicker training for dogs can speed up the learning process and help your dog to learn future tricks.

Whether you are a new owner or interested in teaching your dog more tricks, clicker training can be beneficial to so many situations. We will be going through the pros, cons, and how to do dog clicker training so you can decide if it is right for you and your pup.

Clicker Training Considerations

There are some elements that you need to consider before pursuing clicker training your dog to be sure you are doing so as effectively as possible.

Positive Reinforcement

One of the key methods of enforcement and use is to incorporate positive reinforcement into clicker training. Although the clicker can be used alone to train a dog, positive reinforcement speeds up the process.

One of our top recommended training techniques is positive reinforcement. This is where you praise positive behavior with something your dog enjoys, most commonly a treat. However, for non-food orientated dogs, toys and affection can also be forms of praise. Many studies show that dogs learn and respond much more effectively to positive treatment and training than negative. The use of rewarding a dog enables them to want to replicate that behavior, such as sitting when commanding them to do so.

To implement positive reinforcement in clicker training, you use the clicker after a positive behavior has been displayed and reward your dog. They will associate the sound of the clicker with the reward and a positive feeling. This will encourage repetition and the avoidance of opposing, negative behaviors. It is easy, cheap, and very effective. Three reasons why we advise it so strongly as well as many behaviorists and trainers.

Number of Clicks

Consistency is important with training, otherwise your dog may become confused. This can lead to a much longer length of time required to train your dog and their behavior may initially go backward. What is best is to make some decisions concerning using the clicker. First decide if the number of clicks has a meaning to your dog’s training. For example, show dogs may learn that one click means a reward, whereas two clicks mean to repeat a trick. It all depends on what would be best for you and the training you are doing. Once making that decision, be sure to stick with the number of clicks and their meaning.

Also be sure to not over-complicate things. If you have ten different meanings for different clicks, this can be very confusing. We recommend using only two or three different clicking techniques to keep things straight forward and simple. These usually apply to the repetition of an event or positive or negative behaviors. However, you should really only use a clicker for either positive or negative behaviors, again, it can be too confusing otherwise.

What to do if You Miss a Click?

Firstly, don’t worry. One missed click is not going to cause your dog or puppy to forget everything. Nor will it lead to them associating the trick or behavior to be bad and no longer perform it. Missing a click happens, what matters is regularly using it.

By using a clicker every time a dog performs an action you want them to associate with the clicker, negative or positive, this association will grow. Repetition is what leads to this, therefore, missing it one time will be okay. This subconscious association will still grow as long as you continue to use the clicker afterward and as often as you can.

dog clicker training
It’s okay to miss a click during training.

How To Clicker Train A Dog

Clicker training is relatively simple once you’ve got a hang of it. We have simplified the training method into three steps and an optional fourth step!

Step 1: Association

The first step is to teach your dog to associate the clicker with the action or response you desire. Most commonly, this is a positive association to encourage learning. In training, you want to use the clicker directly after the desired behavior has been displayed. However, you initially just want your dog to learn the clicker is good news. Start off by sitting with your dog, using the clicker and giving them a treat. By giving them a form of praise alongside hearing the clicker, your dog will learn that this is a positive noise and indicates good things.

The positive association does not have to be with treats in case your dog is overweight or food aggressive. You can instead use toys, affection, or verbal praise. As long as your dog responds positively, you can choose which form of praise is better suited for them.

Step 2: Basic Tricks

Now that your dog has a positive association with the clicker, you use this association to help their learning with tricks and behaviors. You should click the clicker after they perform a desired behavior and reward them directly afterward. Perhaps you are training your puppy to sit and they sit down naturally. Say the name of the trick, click the clicker and give them a treat! If you are using another form of positive association, such as praise, affection, or a toy, be sure to reward them directly after the trick.

Make sure to start with more simple tricks such as sit, lie down, or stay. Trying to get your dog to learn too much in one go can be overwhelming. This can lead to anxiety, a negative mood, of confusion in learning. Furthermore, if you own a young puppy or your dog has newly entered your home, keep the training sessions short to moderate. The time should not be too long as it may be too much for them right now.

Step 3: Advanced Tricks

Your dog’s becoming a pro now! They’ve learned how to perform some tricks due to clicker training, but you want more. Your dog is now ready for advanced tricks such as spin, play dead, and barking on command. There is now a stable foundation of learning for you to build upon. They know that the clicker means training time, or for them, reward time! It is no longer as difficult to get them to remain calm or sit still. Furthermore, you’ve already taught them manners and basic tricks. So you can quickly get them to come and sit calmly.

With complex tricks, we recommend separating them into segments. With roll over, for example, you can separate this trick into four steps, each with learning periods and praise. This can include, sit, lie down, getting them to roll on their back, and then completely roll over. Making steps makes the learning process easier and not too complicated.

Step 4: Removing Treats or Positive Stimuli (Optional)

Those that wish to train their dog thoroughly, such as to become a show dog or a performing dog, may wish to remove positive stimuli. There are multiple reasons why you may want to consider this. Firstly, if your dog is overweight or is gaining weight, then you may want to stop providing them treats. Another reason could be that the costs of treats are going up and your dog is particularly picky. Regardless, whatever the reason, it is possible to do so.

After your dog has accomplished advanced training, they can be considered an expert with clicker training. If you are using treats to praise them, you can either replace the treats or gradually wean them out of the training process. Replacements may mean instead of giving a treat, your dog gets cuddles after performing the trick correctly. Whereas weaning out the treats may mean giving them every other performance of the trick, then every three, and continuing until you are no longer using them. At this point, the positive association should be enough to continue training your dog with a clicker alone.

Pros of Clicker Training

Clicker training offers more pros than cons in our view. Of course, your dog will learn the trick or behavior you are trying to teach them, but there is more than that! Take a look.

Quick Learning

Positive association tied with clicker training is one of the most effective ways to train your dog. Not only is it effective, as in they retain the trick for years later, but they also learn very quickly. What aids this is motivation. The positive stimuli of treats, praise, or even cuddles are wonderful motivators for your dog. As we know with work, a strong motivator helps you to remember and accomplish. With every treat and training session, your dog will learn more because they enjoyed their time.

They will want to do anything they can to receive a treat and this includes correctly performing a trick! Therefore, they will work harder to remember and perform the trick correctly to do so. With more concentration and effort put into training, your dog will learn more quickly and the training time will be significantly reduced. Regular training time can take two to three times longer than that of positive association clicker training. If you are using this for correcting negative behavior, you will want to do so as quickly as possible. Therefore, positive reinforcement is the way to go for potty training and other quick needed training.

Less Stressful

Although training can be fun for both you and your dog, it can also be stressful. It all depends on how it is done and what your dog’s traits are. Positive associative clicker training is one of the least stressful forms of training and this holds many benefits.

For starters, the gentle nature of this training does not induce stress. Your dog gets to spend time with you and receives treats, what’s not to love? As opposed to scolding or tapping your dog on the nose, which leads to your dog not wanting to train and even feeling fear. Furthermore, this lengthens the time you can train your dog for. As your dog is feeling happy, you can continue training your dog for longer so they can learn tricks more quickly. Therefore, you can achieve your goal of better behavior or learned tricks in a shorter span of time.

Furthermore, it can be difficult to engage your dog in training sometimes. However, with positive reinforcement and the sound of the clicker, your dog will stay engaged for longer. This means you do not have to worry about regaining their attention because they are motivated to get that treat!

Strengthens Your Relationship

Training is a great way to bond with your dog! You spend time with them, laugh with them, and even praise them. Whether it helps you to build an initial relationship with your dog or strengthen an already existing bond, it is certainly a reason to participate.

But how does training increase the bond with your pup? Some owners may believe it is a form of work, but with a form of positive enrichment, it is the opposite! Spending time with those you love increases relationships. It helps a dog to trust their owner as well as have more fun with them. It’s why some owners will encourage visitors to give their dogs treats, food is the way to a lot of dogs’ hearts. Training is a way to bond through giving treats, but to do so with a purpose. We can all be guilty of giving our pups too many treats. This way, giving them those tasty morsels holds a purpose, even if it is cupboard love.

More Fun

When your dog is having more fun, so are you! They love being praised and pleasing you. Dogs will often get excited, barking, jumping, and jumping up when you praise them. Its because dogs aim to please, so training is such a fun experience for them. Furthermore, they get praise, play, or treats! Training is a win-win for dogs as long as they are not overwhelmed with too much training.

dog fun training
Make the training more fun for you and your dog!

Cons of Clicker Training

Although there are not many, it is important to identify the cons in clicker training to properly evaluate it. That way, you will know if it is right for you or not.

Weight Gain

If you are using treats to get your dog to positively associate the clicker, there is a chance that they could put on weight after a while. Treats with high levels of carbohydrates, fat, and sugar can all lead to weight gain when given in excess. Your dog will store these excess nutrients as weight gain. They will continue to gain more weight as long as you are training them in this manner. This means you may have to cut your training sessions short to avoid the chance of weight gain or look for alternative treats. Low fat, single ingredient, or homemade dog treats can all prevent the chance of your dog becoming obese.

Time Consuming

You can’t train a dog in a day, especially a young puppy or a rescue dog that needs time to acclimate. You need to have patience and do a little training every day. Too much training in one day can lead an overwhelmed dog not acting themselves. Their behavior may manifest into anxiety or even aggression. Their previous and current training can even be negatively affected if they become stressed from too much training. As they may become confused and not perform as desired. This is why it is so crucial to give your dog resting time between training sessions and not involve them in too many per day.

Doesn’t Work for Every Dog

Clicker training works well for dogs with clear hearing. Those with a lower quality of healing or are completely deaf will not be able to register the noise of the clicker, nor the possible command. There is also the problem of trying to implement positive reinforcement depending on your dog’s preferences. If your dog is not food orientated, the use of positive could not be tailored towards them. As they would not be motivated in the manner they would towards other stimuli. Be sure to tailor dog training for your dog.

Clicker Training FAQ

We have added a summary about dog clicker training to ensure you feel confident. Here are the four most searched questions about clicker training for dogs.

Is a clicker good for dog training?

A clicker can help speed up training and is great to help your dog learn! It allows your pup to associate the clicker with a positive action or feeling, increasing their motivation. This will encourage them to engage thoroughly in the training and learn more quickly.

How do you train a dog with a clicker?

You train a dog with a clicker by using it after they have performed the desired behavior and then rewarding them with something positive. The rewards should be tailored towards their individual motivators, such as food, play, or affection. Praise your dog after using the clicker to allow them to positively associate the clicker with whatever method of praise is best for them.

What age should you start clicker training?

You can start clicker training your dog from six weeks old! Puppies are far more intelligent than we often give them credit for. Starting to train them early enables them to get comfortable to the sound of the clicker and can help promote good behavior from as young of an age as possible. Some breeders will even begin clicker training puppies from a week of age for a minute or two a day!

A gradual introduction enables them to get used to it. Although, we would not recommend interfering with very young puppies whilst they are with their mother as both her and the puppies may feel distressed. You may begin to incorporate clicker training to a puppy once they are walking around by themselves and the mother you can check on them without distressing the bitch.

Be sure to give your dog time to adjust to their new home before training them. Regardless of whether you own a puppy or a rescue dog, every dog needs time to get used to their new home.

What is the best clicker for dog training?

The best clicker for your dog is one that has a firm, loud noise, and one that is resilient for frequent use. If you are interested in spending a little more, you can get fund designs and shapes to make your training clicker your own. There is also the option to get one with a key ring, wrist strap, or neck strap. This enables you to have it for handy use whenever you need it. For example, if you are potty training your puppy, then you never know when they may need the toilet. These features enable you to keep a clicker close and use it whenever you need too.

Clicker training is a useful, at-home method that can train any dog. It’s cheap, effective, and can be tailored towards your dog’s preferences. Be patient, and watch how quickly the results take place.

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