How to Clicker Train a Dog: Successful Clicker Training Sessions and Basic Commands

dog clicker training

Clicker training is a dog’s best friend since it involves being with you, praise, and a treat. Dogs learn quickly if it gets them what they want, and positive reinforcement dog training promotes healthier relationships between you and your canine friend.

Clicker or marker training teaches a dog that good behavior gets a reward at the exact moment, and your dog understands that command where you’re crate training or teaching a puppy not to bite.

A dog learns better from a distinct clicking sound than from verbal commands and hand signals alone, and it’s mesmerizing to watch.

What is Clicker Training?

how to use a clicker to train a dog

A dog training clicker is a great companion method of positive reinforcement training. A clicker can be anything: your fingers, your tongue, or any instrument that makes a small, distinct clicking noise.

However, most trainers purchase a mechanical clicking noisemaker. During a training session, they use the clicker as a marker to teach basic commands like sit and reward good behavior.

The method is a great positive reinforcement tool as it helps concentrate on a dog’s good behavior using science-based animal learning and the philosophy that rewarding good behavior encourages a dog to repeat this skill.

A clicker works like this:

  • Rewards for the exact behavior
  • Marks the exact moment for a dog to know what it’s doing right
  • Provides the dog and trainer with a learning tool
  • It isn’t mistaken for other verbal or physical commands

What is Operant Conditioning?

The scientist credited with inventing operant conditioning and the original dog training clicker is a renowned Nobel Prize winner, neurologist, and physiologist who conducted many experiments on dogs, like his invasive saliva test that incorporated the sound of a bell. 

Pavlov studied dogs and used a bell to signal that their kibble was about to be served. It doesn’t take a scientist to know that dogs drool if you keep them waiting for food. Pavlov adapted the sequence and trained the lab dogs to associate the sound with food, even when no food was present or given.

This is called operant conditioning and trains dogs to behave a certain way when a stimulant or reward is used. Clicker training works on the same principles, and click becomes the reward.

How To Use a Clicker for Training Your Dog

how to use a dog clicker

Clicker training your dog takes practice, a bag of your dog’s favorite treats, and effort. The clicker is the communication tool you’ll get your dog to concentrate on.

You can try this simple tip for starters:

  • Get your dog’s attention
  • Hover your hand above your dog’s head
  • When your dog sits, immediately click 
  • Follow with praise and treats

That’s the simplified version, but to use a clicker, dog training uses a practice called loading the clicker, which teaches your dog to associate the clicker mark with the chosen treat. Most dogs respond correctly after 10 to 20 repeats. This method is unlike shock collar training, which some dog owners find cruel.

Luring your dog into the desired behavior with a clicker marker is a positive experience essential for shaping behaviors. All dog training methods take time, and clicker training involves a concentrated effort. 

You can also use the clicker training method to reward your dog when:

  • They patiently wait on their dog bed
  • They don’t jump up on visitors
  • They’re not begging at the dinner table
  • Sit before you leash them

How to Clicker Train a Dog

The clicker dog training method might sound complicated, but all it takes is a bit of practice and habit to incorporate into your routine. It’s rewarding to watch your dog respond, and you’ll beam with pride over their accomplishment when they perform on cue in the public park.

Introduce the Clicker to Your Dog

How to Clicker Train a Dog

First and foremost, enjoy the experience of being with your dog.

  • Carry your dog’s favorite treats and the clicker (cut into half to reduce calories)
  • Choose a quiet room or secluded park space 
  • Introduce the clicker or marker sound (or other noise you’ll use going forward) and instantly give your dog a treat. You’re rewarding the dog just for hearing the sound you activate.
  • Use verbal and physical praise with the treat 
  • Repeat the clicker noise and reward process to establish the connection

To see dog training in action, watch this clip.

For Every Desired Behavior, Create a Marker Word

  1. The next step is to associate command words with your clicker sound. Dogs are so smart; most quickly associate our commands and clicks with words.  
  2. The best tip: don’t overcomplicate the training session with fancy tricks or words.
  3. When you and Fido are ready, work on basic commands like sit, stay, and down. Commands that your dog is already familiar with.
  4. When your dog obeys the command, click and reward it with a treat. It’s an important sequence, and repeat it to build confidence.
  5. The next step is to repeat the sit, down, and stay with vocal commands that your dog can easily associate with the desired behavior.

Don’t introduce too many commands simultaneously; instead, focus on getting the sequence right.

  • Verbal Command
  • Click
  • Reward

Phase out the clicker and reward once your dog masters the command. You can still praise with an emphatic word like yes or good dog. Clicker training also uses release command markers like break or free. The goal is to wean your dog off the clicker and rewards once they master verbal or hand signals.

Basic Commands of Training

clicker training for dogs

Dog training is fun and essential in developing a healthy relationship between you and your dog. Most successful dog parents will agree that dogs thrive from an established routine and having confidence in your leadership.

A dog training clicker makes it easy to master basic commands.

Sit

how to train a puppy with a clicker

Sit is the most universal and readily obeyed command.

  • Hover your hand and clicker above your dog’s head
  • Wait for it to sit
  • Immediately click when the command is fulfilled
  • Continue to click to reinforce the sit 
  • Release with a command word (use the same command words)

Watch this video to help you visualize. You can also use the clicker method to help crate-train a puppy at night.

Stand

Stand is more important than you might think. It helps leash or harness your dog, grooming, vet visits, and dogs that go on to compete in conformation shows and obedience trials.

Here’s how to teach the stand position:

  • Ask your dog to sit
  • Keep a treat in your palm directly in front of your dog’s nose and pull it back
  • The dog will follow the treat and rise
  • As soon as the dog rises, mark with a click, reinforce with a positive phrase, and reward with a treat
  • Repeat and establish confidence 
  • Once the dog and you are comfortable, repeat without a treat and continue with a verbal command or hand signal that marks the stand command

Come

how to obedience train a dog

Come is essential to keep your dog safe when in public. Long leash your dog and find a quiet area.

  • Walk with your dog and tug on the leash to signal to come
  • Instantly click when the dog obeys and comes, all the while clicking
  • Reward with treats, affectionate praise 
  • Repeat this exercise and then try in a secure area off-leash

Heel

Not all dogs respond to treat rewards. Some dogs love a certain toy or activity. You can still make clicker training work.

Heeling is another safety command. You can use it with a leash to begin with or practice indoors.

  • Tempt your dog with a treat in your palm to follow
  • Hold it at your side as you walk 
  • Use the cue word heel and click for the entire time your dog stays at your side (ideally one step ahead or behind you)

Practice heeling and teach your dog to stay in your yard simultaneously.

Stay

how to clicker train

Dogs are eager to please, and they seek your leadership. With a bit of practice, you can earn their devotion.

You can include the stay command when your dog is in the sit or down position.

  • Click repeatedly as long as your dog stays put
  • To begin, only ask them to stay for 10 seconds
  • As you see progress, command them to hold the position for longer
  • Work toward a five-minute goal

Not every dog will respond to your clicker training method. Some trainers resort to using shock collars with good results. Clicker methods can also help prevent incessant barking. Reward every desired behavior.

Dogs love clicker training because it’s all about getting treats and your affection, and best of all, sometimes, they get rewarded for doing nothing at all. 

The dog training clicker tool is perfect for teaching your dog quirky tricks that come naturally to them, like chasing their tail, pushing their bed around, or engaging with a favorite toy. 

  • Have your clicker accessible to capture the exact moment
  • Use keywords to associate with the action when you clicker train your dog
  • Repeat the command and clicker-reward trainingIncorporate hand signals

Clicker training is versatile and works with voice, treat, and hand signals.

  • Show your dog a hand signal before issuing the verbal command
  • Reward  as you would with other verbal commands
  • Monitor until your dog associates the hand command with the verbal response

Hand commands are useful cues you can issue when you can’t speak or are busy with tasks. Sit and stay are great commands to master with hand signaling techniques.

Practice, Patience, and Consistency

Regardless of your dog training method, shock collars, alpha, or other obedience training, you need patience and consistency.

Working with your dog can test your limits, but always remain calm and commit a few hours weekly. The best results come from shorter training sessions, like 15 to 20-minute segments. Consistency and repeating the exercise are key, as are oodles of canine love.

Key Strategies for Effective Clicker Training with Your Dog

Clicker training looks easy, and many people and their best friends enjoy the experience.

  1. Clicker training is all about timing the click with the correct behavior
  2. Reward the desired behavior immediately
  3. Use small portions of the treat to prevent unnecessary calories
  4. End the training session when your dog successfully completes a task
  5. Work towards phasing out the clicker or marker tool and maintain the verbal or hand cue

The Benefits of Clicker Training

pet clicker training

Clicker training isn’t just for learning commands, though it’s helpful. The method also helps with the following:

  • Builds confidence in you and your dog
  • It’s so enjoyable
  • Strengthens the bond you share
  • It’s a quick training method
  • Your pooch learns a desired behavior
  • Teaches your dog to rely on its instinct and respond without fear
  • Your mistakes have fewer consequences on the success and dog’s response 
  • It helps a dog learn basic and complicated responses faster

Regardless of your chosen training, investing time in your dog’s training is essential and a joyful experience.

How and When to Employ Clicker Training

The beauty of clicker training is that you can use it on a puppy or adult dog and get great results. It’s portable and very inexpensive. Clip a clicker to your leash or harness or the zipper of your favorite jacket or key chain.

In the beginning, you use the clicker each time the dog performs a desired behavior, from simply laying quietly on the mat or sitting without being asked. 

Dogs learn quickly to associate the click with a reward and the desired behavior. You can also use a clicking sound with your tongue or snap your fingers to create a marker.

FAQs

We’re not all endowed with the dog whisperer’s gift of training dogs with the famous TSK sound; you can always read up on training dogs with these books.

What is the Meaning of Click?

The click or marker is a tool used with a reward. It signals to the dog that a treat or other reward, like a game or affection, is coming.

What Can I Teach My Dog With Clicker Training?

Clicker training helps teach basic obedience commands like sit, stay, come, fun tricks, and other desired behaviors.

Is a Clicker Bad for a Dog?

Clicker training is proving to be an essential and meaningful way to teach your dogs commands and appropriate behavior with positive reinforcement.

How Long Does It Take to Clicker Train My Dog?

Every dog and trainer learns at their own pace. Some dogs only require a few sessions, while others take several trials. The key is consistency.

Conclusion on Dog Training Clickers and Positive Reinforcement Training Sessions

Teach your dog new behavior with a dog clicker, and a tasty treat helps develop good behaviors and the desired action. Be consistent, use a strong vocal command, and communicate with a correct action.

Here is a pro demonstrating the clicker with a chicken treat.

Monika Martyn
Monika Martyn is a nomadic minimalist and published author. Her pet portfolio includes experience with over forty cats and dogs, and she becomes their surrogate and a valued pack member. One of her proudest accomplishments is typing while petting a fur baby on her lap. She also excels at dog-speak and cat-talk and is working on mastering fish lingo. Aside from her animal advocacy, she is passionate about the environment, plastic pollution, and living with less (not including chocolate and coffee). She practices yoga and meditation faithfully. She’s experienced living abroad and believes that together people can evoke change for the better. Or at least be kind to one another despite our differences. She has an uncanny knack for remembering people’s names. She’s proud of her two Pushcart Nominations, her debut novel, and her marriage. When she’s not writing, she’s thinking about writing. Monika believes that education is the biggest gift to humanity at any age.

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