As the first major advance in dog
training since choke chains, and perhaps spiked collars,
click and treat, or clicker training, has quickly revolutionized itself in becoming
a big hit on the training circuit. Tens of thousands of
trainers and hundreds of thousands of dog owners now use the
click and treat, or clicker training, method.
Used initially to train marine mammals,
click and treat separates the training process into two
discrete steps - information and motivation. This is
hardly a new innovation in dog training – in fact, most
training methods do use these two steps. The difference,
however, is that conventional
dog training uses the two steps simultaneously,
which can confuse the animal and prolong results, while
clicker training separates the two steps (the click, and the
Most trainers will verbally praise
a dog for good behavior, while at the same time
motivating the dog to repeat his actions. This can be
very effective, but proponents of clicker training maintain
that it takes longer for the dog to understand which behaviors
and actions caused the praise from the trainer, with
conventional training. With the click and treat method,
the processes are reportedly more easily learned by the dog.
With conventional training, the trainer may
say “good boy” when the dog performs a correct action, and
proceed with giving a treat. The clicker becomes a
substitute for verbal praise but can actually catch the
“good boy” behavior more quickly than verbalizing it,
letting the dog know exactly which behavior he is being
rewarded for. The click, in effect, is more immediate,
occurring at the instant at which the first moment of the
spoken words would occur.
If you’re unsure what I’m talking about,
try pressing your thumb and forefinger together and at the
same time say “good boy”. See what I mean?
With the spoken word, the dog doesn’t fully get the message
that you’re praising him until you’ve finished the two
words, or are at least a good way through them. The
difference is only a matter of a second or two (or less), but
clicker trainers maintain that this is significant when
training dogs – after all, as we all know, it’s essential
to praise or correct a dog’s behaviour immediately, or the
dog won’t connect the praise or the correction with it’s
In order to try click and treat for
yourself, you’ll need a clicker. These can be
purchased at most pet stores. They’re basically just a
small metallic device which emit a “click” when the two
sides are pressed together.
When you’re having a training session with
your dog, make sure that you click the clicker immediately
your dog starts the requested action. This is of
critical importance. As far as possible, the click must
accompany the correct action by the dog, and not follow it.
Another way of understanding clicker
training is seeing it as a secondary reinforcement.
Food, water, physical affection and play (things the dog
wants) are primary reinforcement. When you take your dog
for a walk, the leash works as a secondary reinforcement.
The dog realizes that his owner is taking him for a walk, not
the leash, but the leash triggers a reaction in the dog,
telling him that the leash will let him know where he will go
and where he will not. And if he reacts to the leash
with appropriate behavior, his reward will be a wonderful walk
with you – something he loves to do!
Clicker training works in a similar manner.
When your dog hears the clicker, he will realize instantly
that he has pleased you, and as long as he keeps hearing a
click, there are rewards coming to him. So, the clicker
works as a secondary reinforcement, teaching him boundaries
and appropriate behavior.
A couple advantages of the click and treat
method include, 1) faster response than verbal praise.
The clicker can identify the exact behavior at the time it
happens, 2) it will eventually take the place of treats (as
the “good boy” does with conventional training).
While motivating the dog to hear clicks, he will also
eventually learn to do the desired behaviours without an
expectation of receiving a treat each time he does something
good, and 3) if the trainer is working at a distance from the
dog, the clicker will still work, without having to be right
The third advantage is perhaps the greatest
benefit of clicker training. While any trainer can train
a dog to comply with commands from a distance, with clicker
training this can often be achieved faster than with other
A good technique to use when getting started
with clicker training is to stand in front of your dog.
Click the clicker and give a treat. Continue doing this
for 20-30 minutes, or until the dog ceases to become startled
by the sound of the click. This will familiarize him to
the clicking sound, while teaching him that every time he
hears it, he has done something good. After he gets the
hang of it, begin by adding commands, such as “sit” and
Click and treat has proven to be a
relatively simple training method from which you can expect
fast results. So for dog owners who are looking for a
new and innovative way to motivate and praise their animals,
get out there, buy a clicker and try it!
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