You Don’t Want To Use A Clicker?

Training Philosophy

You Don’t Want To Use A Clicker?

Clickers might be the most underappreciated tool in pet dog training. Their reputation isn’t the best: they seem new-age-y (Everybody used to do just fine training their dogs without them – why start now?), redundant (Why use a clicker when you can use a marker word?) and a burden (Now I have to carry a clicker everywhere I go so my dog listens?).

Let’s take a look a bit closer at these assumptions.

First of all, there is nothing magical about the clicker. It’s an empty sound. It has neither a positive nor a negative meaning to your dog. You will not use the clicker to reward your dog – so don’t worry about having to take it everywhere. The only thing a clicker is good for (and as it turns out, really good – way better than a verbal marker) is this:

Your clicker lets your dog know when he is doing something right.

Sounds basic? It is. The only function of your clicker is to pair an action or behavior on your dog’s part with the reward he is about to receive.

I often see handlers with their fresh young dogs in training who do something that their owner likes (not pull on leash, sit, lie down on their bed) and when the handler wants to reward them, they have to literally shove the cookie into their dog’s mouth as the dog isn’t even aware that he did right and is about to receive a reward.

How can training work if we have no means of letting our dogs know a reward is about to be delivered? By the time we have awkwardly reached around the dog’s body and put the treat between their teeth, I can guarantee that the training success is small at best (probably non-existent).

Your clicker is like a phone ring tone.

It lets your dog know that something good is about to happen. It makes them aware that we have a reward for them. If your phone rings repeatedly, you pick up and no one is there, it will make you reluctant to pick up again as the ring tone loses its meaning. Just like this analogy, if we click without delivering a reward immediately after, the click will become a neutral, meaningless sound for your dog.
If however we follow through with our promise that a click means a reward, our dogs will become just as responsive to it as people are to their ringing phones.

Your clicker has really impressive precision.
Compared to a verbal marker (such as “yes”), your clicker will help you train about 50% faster. This is because its sharp, definite sound allows for much less error on the dogs’ part than a spoken word, which we might say too late and in slightly differing tones, therefore interfering with its clear meaning.

Also, and this is not to be underestimated:

Using a clicker successfully is plain fun.
Imagine having a tool – quite literally a remote control – that you can use to make your dog do whatever you want him to do. It thrills me every time to see the look on the face of a client new to clicker training when their dog understands how to walk politely on leash/not jump up for greeting/sit and down for the first time thanks to their clicking.
It’s rewarding for the dog. It’s rewarding for the owner. It’s really fun for all involved.

Happy training!