Dog Clicker Training 101: Why Add This Tool to Your Training

Clicker training for dogs involves using a click sound to link a specific behavior with a positive reward.

Updated January 21, 2024
Dog and hand with clicker

Dog clicker training is the fastest method of teaching your dog exactly what you want from them. Clicker training relies on a small handheld device that produces a unique "click" sound to mark the precise moment a dog performs the desired behavior. The clicker is rewarding for the dog, reducing the need for continuous food or toy rewards. 

Clicker Training Basics

Traditionally, dogs have been trained to perform at our command with various methods, but clicker training is changing the way we think about motivation.

It moves toward a simple, consistent, and predictable "reward" for desired behaviors and away from:

Praising Your Dog

Praise is great, but can be an inefficient way to train dogs because it takes so long for your pet to understand exactly why you're lavishing them with treats and affection. Sometimes, a dog is so motivated to get the reward that it distracts their focus from the behavior you want them to learn. They may get it eventually, but you do lose a lot of time until they do.


Punishment may be a motivator, but you are teaching your dog more than a behavior when you yell, strike, or intimidate them. You are also teaching them that you're a creature to be feared and mistrusted. This poisons the dog-human relationship and negatively impacts your bond. In some cases, your bond can be damaged for the rest of your dog's life. Punishment is nothing short of barbaric and abusive, and it should never be used to train any animal.

Need to Know

Dog clicker training capitalizes on the praise method and eliminates punishment from the scenario.

How Clicker Training Works

The process is quite simple. You'll use the clicker to reward your dog for good behavior (positive reinforcement) and not give them any attention or praise when they misbehave. Since dogs thrive on rewards, your dog will want to repeat the good behaviors and will drop the bad ones because they don't bring them anything they want. 

clicker training with a Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog

Help Your Dog See a "Click" As Praise

The first step in dog clicker training is teaching your dog to associate the sound of the clicker with something good happening. To do this:

Grab Attention

Get your dog's attention, then click once and immediately give either a small treat that they enjoy or some quick praise.

The First Day

Throughout the first day, occasionally click and reward your dog again. You're helping your dog associate the clicker with a reward.

Use a Clicker as a Reward All the Time

You'll hear the term 'loading the clicker' if you choose to train your dog this way, which basically means you're using the clicker in combination with a reward. To use the clicker in this manner, you'll need to click and immediately give them the treat.

Woman Clicker Trains Her Coton de Tulear

Here's an example of how to use this method to teach your dog how to sit:

  1. Choose your dog's favorite treat, ensuring you have both treats and the clicker.
  2. Move the clicker over their head slowly.
  3. Watch for your dog's butt to hit the ground in a sitting position.
  4. Make the click noise and immediately provide the treat.

Some dogs learn faster than others. While some pet parents may only need a few repetitions of this command, other dogs may take 10–20 short training sessions to learn each command. Fortunately, this is a stimulus they can understand immediately, so they're able to connect the behavior with the reward without pause. 

Since you have already taught your dog to associate the click with something good happening to them, they'll want to repeat the behavior to be rewarded again. Repeat the command and click at the precise moment your dog obeys, then immediately follow with the reward. You'll be amazed at how quickly your dog learns to respond to your command, and soon, you'll be able to eliminate the click-and-treat and use a voice command with click by itself.

Immediate Clicks Are Critical

Why is clicker training more effective than traditional praise methods? Because it shortens the communication time involved between the moment your dog performs an appropriate behavior and the time it takes you to alert them to the fact. The clicker always means "job well done," so your dog gets the message immediately every time you mark the moment with a click. Clicking late or too early can confuse the dog and hinder the training process.

Clicker Training Failure

Don't give up on clicker training if your dog fails to obey a command. They simply may not understand what your command means. If this happens, go back to the beginning, say the command, and physically show them what they should do, then click and reward. This should help them get back on the right track.

Need to Know

Short, frequent training sessions are more effective than longer, less frequent ones.

A Faster Training Method

When it comes to dog training, you have two choices. You can take the scenic route with the old praise method, or you can hop on the expressway and reach your destination in record time with dog clicker training.

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Dog Clicker Training 101: Why Add This Tool to Your Training