Clicker training uses a distinct marker sound, usually from a small plastic "clicker." You may also choose a verbal marker like "Yes!" if your dog is unsure about the clicker sound. Either way, the marker sound is paired with something that your dog enjoys. This is often food but can also be a game of fetch or tug, petting from you, or anything else that your dog will work for.
Once your pet understands that the marker sound means "good things are coming," it can then be used to mark any behavior that you want your dog to repeat. Because markers — especially those using a clicker — are so precise, animals trained using this method pick up new behaviors readily and often learn more quickly than those trained by using food or praise alone.
Trading 'cue' for clicker
The clicker is only used in the training phase of teaching a new behavior. Once the dog understands what you are rewarding, then an appropriate cue is added and the clicker and treats are gradually withdrawn. The final result is a reliable behavior that is performed even when food or other rewards are not immediately visible or available.
Clicker training has been successful with a wide range of animals in many different settings. A few examples of its power and versatility:
- Used as a tool for training sea mammals to perform tricks as well as deep-water military activities.
- A popular technique for training dogs in movies.
- Also embraced by trainers of animals that assist people with disabilities. One organization that serves the visually impaired reduced training time for their guide dogs from 16 weeks to 8 weeks.
- The training method of choice for dogs that detect contraband agricultural products for the Department of Homeland Security.
- Used by zoos to make it easier to medicate, handle, and care for everything from large cats to small reptiles.
As you will see, clicker training is a fun and flexible way to teach companion animals proper etiquette for living with humans. Your dog will love the "game" — and the rewards — of learning what makes you happy, too.
Questions? Just email us. We'll be glad to provide whatever additional details you need. Our 'Resources' page also includes books and websites that discuss clicker training in more depth.
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