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How to Clicker Train Your Dog

Clicker training is a popular way to train your dog and reward his good behavior. It can be fun for you and your dog and often produces quick and effective results.[1] Clicker training is based on the scientific concept that an animal will continue to do a behavior that is rewarded.[2] Once your dog understands what the clicker is all about, you will be able to teach him all kinds of tricks with plenty of rewards along the way.

Part One of Two:
Preparing to Clicker Train Your Dog
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  1. 1
    Learn how to use a clicker. A clicker, which is available at your local pet store, is a small, handheld plastic device with a button or small metal tongue that you press down on to make a clicking noise. The key to using a clicker is to use it at the exact moment that your dog performs the expected behavior. The sound of a click should always be followed by some type of reward (eg, food, toys, verbal praise).[3]
    • Keep in mind that the clicker is the signal that a reward is coming, rather than being the reward itself.
    • With the clicker, your dog will learn two main things–the exact moment that he is doing the right thing, and that a treat always comes after the click.
    • The clicker can be a much more precise method than verbal cues ("good" or "thanks") to communicate with your dog during a training session. This can help speed up the pace of training.[4]
    • You could think of the clicker like the winning buzzer on a game show–the noise signals the exact moment that the correct behavior or action is being performed.
  2. 2
    Introduce your dog to the clicker. Before you can use the clicker for training purposes, you will need to teach your dog what the clicker means to him. This is known as “charging” the clicker.[5] While you are in the room with your dog (any quiet room will do), hold a treat in one hand and the clicker in the other. Press down on the clicker once. When your dog turns to you at the sound of the click, immediately give him the treat.
    • You will need at least a handful of treats, since you will be practicing this over and over.
    • Repeat this several times. Vary the amount of time that you hold the treat in your hand before using the clicker so that your dog does not begin to expect when the treat will come.
    • If your dog wants to sniff and try to get at the treat, keep your hand closed and wait until he loses interest in the treat before using the clicker.
  3. 3
    Observe your dog’s response to the clicker. Some dogs may be sensitive to the sound of the clicker. If your dog runs away when he hears the clicker, the sound is probably a little too harsh for him. To soften the sound, you could wrap a towel around the clicker. You could also use a different clicking device, such as a ballpoint pen, that would have a quieter clicking sound.
    • If he continues to run away from the clicking noise, you will probably need to rely more on verbal cues to train him.
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Part Two of Two:
Training Your Dog With a Clicker
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  1. 1
    Choose a quiet location. Once your dog has learned what to expect with the sound of the clicker, you can use it to train him to do different commands (e.g., sit, down, stay). It would be best to train him in a quiet location without other people or distractions around.[6] If you have a fenced in backyard, you could also clicker train him outside.
    • As your dog becomes more comfortable with clicker training, you can use the clicker in areas that are louder or have more distractions (e.g., room with a TV on, dog park).
  2. 2
    Click when your dog is in the act of good behavior. One method of clicker training your dog is called “catching”– you will click as soon as you catch your dog doing a good behavior that he’s already pretty good at doing on his own. For example, if he is in the room with you and decides to lie down to get more comfortable, click as soon as he lies down and immediately throw him a treat. When he gets up to eat the treat, wait until he lies down again and repeat the process.
    • The “catching” method will only work when your dog already knows how to do the good behavior without being commanded to do so.
    • The clicker training will reinforce to him that he is doing the right thing, which will encourage him to repeat the good behavior.
  3. 3
    Use the clicker at each small step of a new behavior. This is called “shaping”– by using the clicker and immediate reward at each small step, you are shaping the new behavior as a whole. For example, if you want to train your dog to go lie down in a specific area, click and reward him as soon as he turns his body in the direction of that area. You can then click and reward him at each small step: beginning to walk to the new spot, arriving at the new spot, starting to lie down, and fully lying down on the floor.
    • By using the clicker and reward at each small step, you will be providing him with continual positive reinforcement as he is learning the new behavior. He will think that this learning is fun and will likely perform the new behavior with eagerness.
    • You may need to practice each step of the new behavior over and over again before moving to the next small step.
  4. 4
    Use a food lure. For this method, the treat is used to lure your dog into doing the expected behavior. A food lure is commonly used when training a dog to lie down. For this behavior, you would hold the treat right in front of your dog’s nose and slowly move the treat down to the floor. Your dog will follow the treat down. When his elbows hit the floor, immediately click and reward him with the treat.
    • When you see that your dog consistently responds with the food lure, remove the food lure but continue to hold your hand in front of his nose as if you have a treat. When he lies down, immediately use the clicker and give him a treat.
    • Eventually, your dog will learn how to lie down by following only your hand signals without the lure of a treat.
    • The “lure” method can sometimes be quicker than the “shaping” or “catching” methods.
  5. 5
    Add a verbal cue. Adding a verbal cue is helpful regardless of which method of clicker training you have been using to train your dog. You will say the cue first and then wait for your dog to do the desired behavior. As soon as he does the behavior, click and reward him with a treat.
    • Your verbal cue should be short and direct, such as "sit" or "down." Sentences, such as "Be a good boy and stay" or "Roll over for mommy" would be too long.
    • Make sure that you give the verbal cue before your dog does the behavior so that he knows to listen for your command and then respond to it.
    • If you have used the “lure” method, give the hand signal after saying the verbal cue.
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Community Q&A

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  • My dog is maybe 2 or 3 years old. Will he learn the clicker or is he too old?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • He can still learn. They are never too old.
    Thanks! 53 5
  • How can I use a clicker to train my dog to walk properly on her leash?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • If your dog is pulling on her leash during a walk, stop walking and pause for a moment. If she comes closer to you, click and give her a treat. If she does not respond immediately, wait and be patient. She will eventually come back to you. Once she does, click and give her a treat.
    Thanks! 79 11
  • My dog is aggressive towards other dogs when he is on his leash. How can I use a clicker to train him to be more docile?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • Predict unwanted behavior, cue sit, reward. Keep rewarding as the other dog approaches. Over time your dog will associate other dogs with all of the praise and treats and it will turn into a wanted stimulus.
    Thanks! 36 5
  • How old can my dog be before I can no longer clicker train him?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • They are never too old. Dogs can learn at any age, but keep in mind that older dogs will struggle a lot more with training, so it's always easier to start when they're puppies. If you're training an older dog, be especially calm and patient.
    Thanks! 7 0
  • At what age should you start clicker training?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • Start as early as possible so your dog will get the hang of it quickly. Puppies are very curious and eager to learn.
    Thanks! 43 12
  • My 11 month old Shih Tzu has been very good with the clicker when walking, but when he sees the park, he pulls very badly. What can I do?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • You might want to pull him back and say No. If you let him go to the park, he will know that pulling always works in getting what he wants.
    Thanks! 31 10
  • How do I train my puppy to stop biting?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • When they bite, say no and start pulling him/her away. Keep doing that until he/her reacts, and then press the clicker when he/she stops biting. Give them a treat.
    Thanks! 19 5
  • My dog seems to sit as soon as he sees the treat. I click and reward, but if I don't have a treat in my hand, he doesn't seem to do anything. What can I do?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • Don't use a treat when you train him anymore. If you give him / her a treat every time, they will get used to that and not respond when you do it without it, so it might be time to put the Bacon Bits away. Try just doing it without the treat and with a toy.
    Thanks! 34 14
  • Where do I get a clicker to train my dog?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • You can get them at any local pet store or order them online.
    Thanks! 7 1
  • How do I clicker train a dog to go to the bathroom?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • Every time he goes to the bathroom in the right area, praise him with treats and click the clicker. Make him feel good when the clicker is clicked. Move onto only praise and clicker. Then, use only the clicker because by then, he will think the click is a reward.
    Thanks! 20 10
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  • How do I clicker train my dog to drop and leave it? He is very material posessive!
  • When should I stop using the clicker with my dog?
  • How do I clicker train my puppy?
  • How do I clicker train a dog to not growl when another dog goes in it's bed?
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Quick Summary

To start clicker training your dog, use your clicker and a treat every time you catch your dog doing something good to associate the noise with positive behaviors. For example, if your dog lies down quietly, click immediately and give a treat. You can also use the clicker to reinforce verbal cues. For example, give the verbal cue for your dog to "sit," and as soon as your dog performs the desired action, click and reward with a treat.

TipsEdit

  • Keep the clicker training sessions short (15 minutes or less).
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  • Consider clicker training your dog when he is hungry. If he is full, he may not be as interested in working for food.
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  • When you clicker train, use small and soft treats that your dog can eat quickly and easily. Dog treats are available at your local pet store.
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  • Clicker train your dog when you are in a good mood. The training sessions should be enjoyable for the both of you. If you are in a good mood, chances are that your dog will respond favorably to your positive energy.
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  • If you are having trouble clicker training your dog on your own, you can sign up for clicker training classes or have him trained by a professional dog trainer. Talk with your veterinarian to learn more about dog training classes.
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  • After your dog has learned what the clicker means, you can click without treats. Keep in mind that you will have to charge the clicker every once in a while though, otherwise your dog will stop responding.
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Expert Review By:

PE
Veterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons

This version of How to Clicker Train Your Dog was reviewed by Pippa Elliott, MRCVS on April 14, 2017.

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Co-authors: 49
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Views: 621,451
Categories: Clicker Training Dogs

Reader Success Stories

  • AD

    Akinihi Dawson

    Apr 11

    "I have a Jack Russell called, 'Aroha', meaning love. She 's such a joy. However, due to my good intentions, Aroha is now overweight by 1 kg, jumps up on people and barks at other dogs. The clicker would be so helpful."..." more
  • AR

    April Russ

    Dec 1, 2017

    "It's easy, takes no time at all and has very effective techniques. Well explained as well. I trained both dogs within a couple of days to learn new tricks. I use a double clicker and each dog has it's own sound. Having to focus on something new and fun makes the dogs to run out of energy quickly and relax for hours afterwards. It's mental yoga for dogs. :)"..." more
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  • JD

    Jana De Jager

    Jul 31, 2016

    "I have to help with raising a prospective guide dog, and we have to use clickers. Now I know what the clicker is for before we do training using it. Thanks! This is straightforward and to the point."..." more
  • KD

    K. D.

    Jul 5, 2016

    "Thank you for the clear and simple instructions for clicker training. Our 1 year old shelter pup is such a love, and this technique really helped us get him on the right track quickly."..." more
  • VB

    Vanessa Bagnall

    Jul 9, 2017

    "I love the fact of believing that clicker training will work with dedication and making it fun for your pet. My puppy is tiny, so would welcome an idea of what treats to use."..." more
  • CD

    Connie Donahue

    Jul 25, 2016

    "I have never used clicker training and the instructions are very clear. My dog is easily distracted and I believe this will be the answer. Thank you."..." more
  • CT

    Chuck Taylor

    Oct 8, 2016

    "The third step was informative and the suggested time of 15 minutes was also helpful. Also the mention that age is not that important."..." more
  • BH

    Bev Hughes

    Mar 9, 2017

    "Making the treats using gelatin is a great idea. I am going straight to the store to make some!"
  • BG

    Beverley Greene

    Feb 13, 2017

    "I read everything and it helped me a lot with training my dog. She now responds to me."
  • JK

    Jane Kolf

    Sep 13, 2016

    "So clear and concise, with helpful illustrations. Makes me want to try right away!"
  • RK

    R. K.

    Oct 28, 2016

    "I haven't tried it, but it is definitely something I want to start very soon."
  • JC

    Judy Cowan

    May 4, 2016

    "Learned when and how to use a clicker. I was previously confused."
  • RS

    Rahul Shukla

    Jun 15, 2016

    "Considered the clicking when the puppy is hungry."
  • LS

    Lulu S.

    Jan 31, 2017

    "I never thought of gelatin treats! Interesting!"
  • LA

    L. V. Allen

    Jul 17, 2016

    "This has helped me a lot! I have a shitzu mix. "
  • A

    Anonymous

    Jan 27, 2017

    "It really helped on how to use a clicker!"
  • CG

    Crystal Garcia

    Aug 12, 2017

    "Everything was pretty much informative."
  • CG

    Christina Gonzalez

    Jun 8, 2016

    "Easy and clear."
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