Clicker Training – What is it?

clicker-trainingClicker training is a way of training that ‘marks’ the desired behavior of your dog, and rewards it. The ‘mark’, in this case, is the clicking noise of the clicker. A clicker is a small device that fits easily in your hand and when you press it makes a clicking sound. The ‘click’ tells your dog that they have done the desired action. It is a very clear way of communicating so your dog knows exactly what is going on – in this case, that it did something right. The ‘click’ is combined with positive reinforcement (usually a treat). This combination is an effective, positive and humane way to teach your dog the desired action or behavior.

It is important to note that these actions or behaviors should be ones that your dog is physically and mentally able to do.

Why does clicker training work?

Clicker training is based on the concept of ‘operant conditioning’. This is when a dog performs an action to get the desired reaction.

The process of clicker training starts, however, with ‘classical conditioning’. Just as people do, dogs associate a place, person, action, or event with a specific consequence. Think of how your dog reacts when you pick up his lead – does he run around all excited? This is classical conditioning – your dog has associated the lead with going for a walk and gets excited.

Clicker training takes advantage of this automatic behavior in the beginning, but it quickly develops into operant condition. Your dog will start to intentionally repeat an action to get a reward.

Clicker training can completely change the behavior of your dog. He will be confident, and will not be stressed because he knows what is expected of him. He knows which behaviors will get a positive reaction, and which behaviors to avoid because they will get no reaction.