The clicker is a small hand-held gadget that emits a sound when you press it. The sound the clicker makes is a signal to your dog that the behavior it just offered is rewardable. This “click” is always followed by a food reward. Think: Click and Treat! Note, the clicker is NOT for getting attention.
Since the click is always paired with a food reward, we call this training positive reinforcement. There is no need to punish the dog for offering the wrong behavior, be patient and quickly mark the right behavior when it is offered.
Teaching your dog to sit, using a clicker:
- Begin with clicker and treats in one hand, and your dog near by.
- Start by clicking and tossing a treat to your dog, repeat a few times.
- Next, wait a few seconds to see if your dog will offer a sit. When his bum hits the floor, click and toss him a treat several feet away. Repeat by waiting for your dog to sit again, click and toss a treat. Repeat this several times.
- If your dog does not know how to sit, put a treat to his nose and raise it up over his head slowly. When his bum hits the ground, click and let him eat the treat. Repeat until your dog begins to offer a sit for the reward.
- Next, add the verbal cue “Sit” or a hand signal just before the behavior is performed, click for the correct behavior and reward.
- Repeat with cue added, click the correct behavior and reward.
Here is a video demonstration of me teaching my dog Pablo to target my hand and a novel object: Hand Target using a clicker
Why Does the Clicker Work?
- The sound is the same every time; and is unique to other sounds the dog hears.
- The clicker is the fastest way to accurately mark behavior. (I used it to teach my dog to sneeze, lick his lips and touch the Staples Easy Button).
- The clicker is the fastest way to capture new behaviors your dog does.
- It aids in keeping your dog in his thinking brain.
Will you always have to use the clicker?
No, you can replace the click with a happy, “yes” once your dog understands the behavior thoroughly. It is not a tool that triggers behavior, it just rewards good choices so they are repeated!