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What is Dog Clicker Training?

Dog clicker training is a technique to train animals that uses a "clicker" which is a box with a metal part that makes the sound "Click!". It is also a philosophy because trainers that use this method don't want to coerce or punish the dog. Instead they use the behaviors freely offered by the dog rewarding the ones that they want to reinforce. It's a positive and fun way to communicate with your puppy. Using this technique you can teach your pet an infinite number of behaviors, commands, sports and manners. You can also clicker train your dog to solve minor behavior problems or severe aggression.

dog clicker training, dog training with a clicker, does clicker training really work

This dog training technique is easy for both you and your canine friend because it starts with a very simple exercise. All you need is a clicker and some treats!

What is Dog Clicker Training?

Dog trainers that use this technique study animal learning, which is important to understand the bases of this method. In clicker training we use two main learning principles: classical conditioning and operant conditioning.

First you teach the dog the meaning of the sound "click" (classical conditioning) and then you will use this sound to mark and reward the behaviors you like (operant conditioning). It is simple enough and we can summarize it in these 3 steps:

  1. Get the behavior: Set the conditions and environment to motivate your dog to do what you would like him to do. For example, place his bed in a close by position and block access to the couch.
  2. Mark the behavior: Wait for the dog to do the behavior you want, then as soon as he does it, immediately Click! The click -marks- the behavior and informs the dog that what he did earned him a reward. For example, as the dog approaches the dog bed or steps on it click!
  3. Reinforce the behavior: Right after the click! give your dog a reward, which can be a treat a toy or attention. For example, after you click give your dog a treat.

If you repeat the steps above, your dog will learn to associate the dog bed with rewards and will start spending more time there. 

Does clicker training really work?

Why is dog clicker training so popular? Because it works! And its fun, easy and positive. There are many myths out there concerning dog training, some trainers will tell you that certain dog breeds cannot be trained with positive methods because they need a firm hand, or you may think your dog is so stubborn that positive methods won't work. This is not true for a very simple reason.

Remember I mentioned above that dog clicker training is based on learning principles (classical and operant conditioning)? Well, these principles apply to all animals! Yes, all of them from butterflies to lions to your kids to your mother-in-law! In fact, clicker training is a popular training method in zoos to teach animal husbandry behaviors (cut their toenails, medical care, etc.). So, trust me when I tell you that if a lion can be trained with this method, your dog can too!

Dog clicker training is actually a better technique for "aggressive" and/or "stubborn" breeds. Why? Because we are not forcing the dog to do anything he doesn't want to do (if we did, we would be increasing stress levels which can motivate more aggresive behavior), we are simply rewarding behaviors the dog freely offers that we like. This way we increase the likelyhood of the behavior happening more often (and the ones that are not reinforced to happen less often). The secret, we give the dog a choice and if he picks the choice we like, we reward it. But it was the dog's choice to begin with. This is extremely powerful, think about it from your point of view. Would you like someone to force you to do something or would you like to have a choice?

Dog clicker training has also become very popular because it encourages the dog to think for himself about what he is being asked to do. Instead of pushing him around with a leash, we let the animal figure it out!

And it is a lot of fun to just watch your dog "get-it"!

So, yes. Dog clicker training really works and you will need practice and guidance...lets get started!

What do you need?

  • Food treats: many and varied...and small in size (about the size of a pea). I like mixing in a bag little pieces of carrots, peas, chicken bits, cheese bits, celery, etc. Because it is all mixed up, even the vegetables will smell good to your pooch! You can also make your own dog treats or buy some at the store.
  • Clicker: little noise maker you can find at amazon.

I recommend you get a pouch like the one below, it is very useful to carry everything you need to train your dog indoors or outdoors. I use it with my dog every time we go to the park. This one comes with a clicker, a super comfortable treat pouch that can hold your keys, credit cards and even doggy poop bags. It also comes with a collapsible bowl for water.

Clicker Training Guide For Dogs

Now that you know what clicker training is all about, lets get started! The following articles will take you step-by-step on how to get started with clicker training your dog.

Part 1: Charge the clicker

The first step is always to "charge the clicker". No, it's not an electric device but it's how trainers call this exercise.

Part 2: Clicker Training and Shaping

The clicker training "philosophy" is that we can train animals without touching them. No pushing around, now threatening movements. This article will teach you how to integrate the training method Shaping with clicker training. It includes instructions on how to play the game 101 things to do with a box!

Part 3: Clicker Training and Targeting

Clicker training can also be used with Targeting. This training technique is fun for all dogs, they just love to target! You can use it to teach your pet to walk next to you, to reach or touch different things (useful for fearful dogs) and much more.

Wonderful books to read about dog clicker training!

Weather you have started training your dog with a clicker or not, these books are beautiful to read and I highly recommend them.

Don't Shoot the Dog

This book is one of my top three favorite books in the whole wide world. It literally changed the way I see the world. The book was initially made popular among dog trainers and lovers because the title has "dog" in it. However, this book is about training, about changing ones or others behaviors. It's about relationships whithin humans and also between humans and other species.  Written by Karen Pryor, who made clicker trainer popular and also an excellent writer. You won't regret reading this book.

Click for Joy!

This is a book specifically about clicker training. It is written in a Q&A format and is easy and fascinating to read. Somehow Melissas Alexander, the author, was able to write and explain how to use the clicker and at the same time convey how teaching your dog with a clicker can be one of the most wonderful experices for both of you.

Click to Calm

If you have a fearful or agressive dog, this book will help you teach your dog to be calm and stop reacting using a clicker and the clicker training phylosophy. This book will help you understand why your dog is fearful and/or reactive and how to change that behavior with positive methods. It's a refreshingly humane technique to deal with "difficult" dogs.

More Articles about dog clicker training

Find here many useful and insightful articles on dog clicker training. Use this technique to potty train your puppy, to solve aggression problems or anything in between!

Puppy Clicker Training

Learn how to use clicker training with your puppy. You will find information on what are the most important things your puppy should learn at this early age.

Benefits of this technique

Clicker training uses the basic learning principles of Classical Conditioning and Operant Conditioning. It works by creating a positive association with the sound "click". Read about all the amazing benefits clicker training can have on your furry best friend!

Dog Clicker Training Tips

These tips will make you a great clicker trainer! It takes a little practice, for both, you and your dog. Clicker training is like playing a "hot and cold" game with your dog, and for him to "get it" you must be precise, fast, and fun!

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