Tuesday, April 8, 2014

G is for Gadgetry

Oh geez, today G stands for GADGETRY. All those things you might need for a training session - treats, treat bag, leash, DOG, and...a clicker. The clicker is my favorite gadget.

What is clicker training?

Clicker training is a method of animal (ALL animals) training that uses a sound (the click) to communicate to the animal that it did something right. The clicker allows for a clear communication and becomes a type of language between you and your dog. It can be produced instantly and at the exact moment a behavior occurs. Many people use their voice as a marker instead of a clicker, which is fine, however that introduces a bit of static in the message. Our voices can say the same word in many, many different ways which expresses different emotions or meaning each time. The clicker sounds the same every time it is heard, its meaning never varies, and it tends to be very powerful because it is not a sound heard by your dog in any other circumstances.

So how does this thing work?

The first step is conditioning your dog that every time the click sounds, they get a reward. Once your dog understands that clicks are always followed by rewards, you can use the clicker to mark behaviors. Your goal is to click at the exact moment the behavior occurs and deliver the reward. For example when teaching sit, you'll click the instant your dog's butt hits the ground and the deliver their reward.

The click takes on a lot of value for your dog. It means 'what I was doing the moment I heard the click, that's what she wants me to do.' 

Go on, get your clicker out

It is very easy to 'charge' the clicker so your dog understands that the sound of the click means 'reward.'
  1. Sit and watch TV or read a book with your dog in the room. Have a container of treats within reach.
  2. Make sure your clicker is in your hand :).
  3. Click once and immediately give your dog a treat. Then resume watching TV or reading and ignore your dog.
  4. A few minutes later, click again and offer another treat.
  5. Continue to repeat the click-treat action at varying time intervals. You want to make sure you vary the time so that your dog doesn't know exactly when the next click is coming. Eventually, your dog will start to turn toward you and look expectant when they hear the click - which means they understand that the sound of the clicker means a treat is coming their way.
Now you are ready to start training behaviors! :) Any behavior can be trained (with any animal!) following these three simple steps (courtesy of Karen Pryor - love her!):
  1. Get the behavior
  2. Mark the behavior
  3. Reinforce the behavior

Two important guidelines:

  • Click just once, right when your dog does what you want him to do.
  • Remember to follow every click with a treat as quickly as possible.

Another great video that describes clicker training can be found HERE.

What do you think about clicker training?


  1. I've never used clicker training. I do find it interesting though.

    1. It was intimidating to me at first because it does take some coordination :) but now that I've 'converted' so-to-speak, I'm never going back! :)

  2. Hello, It's my first time on your blog and think this post is great. I've never heard of the clicker but it seems a handy gadget to have. I guess it can be used for other things too. If a person is unable to speak for any apparent reason, a click will have the dog's attention. I am an AtoZer @ http://www.writer-way.blogspot.com

    1. Thanks for stopping by! Yes, the clicker is very handy and such a great tool to implement in training. :)

  3. I really have been meaning to clicker train Luna. Thanks for the extra motivation. Now with the warmer weather, I might actually work on it!

    1. Warmer weather always brings me more motivation to do things. Winter is overrated, I need to move south :). Good luck with the clicker - let me know how it goes!!

  4. I've heard of clicker training but never the precise way to conduct it. Thank you.

    Jean, visiting for the A-Z Challenge from Rantings and Ravings of an Insane Writer

    1. Clicker training is quite easy once you get the hang of timing :) - just takes practice and a little bit of coordination!