15 Clicker Training Tips & Tricks
Updated: Oct 8, 2022
Push and release the springy end of the clicker, making a two-toned click. Then immediately treat. Do not click and then click again when you see your dog didn’t respond. You must click then get the treat to your dog within 3 seconds. Click then treat. If you click you must treat no matter what.
Click during the desired behavior, not after it is completed. The timing of the click is crucial, you must capture the behavior as it is happening, not before and not after. Don’t worry if your pet stops the behavior when it hears the click. The click signifies the end of the behavior. Give the treat after the click. You must deliver the treat within three seconds.
Click when your dog or other pet does something you like. Begin with something easy that the pet is likely to do on its own. (Ideas: sit, coming toward you, touching your hand with their nose, lifting a foot, touching and following an object like a spoon or ruler stick)
Always click once then deliver then treat. Never double click. Every single click earns a treat. If you want to show your happiness or enthusiasm, click once and deliver several treats one after another. This is called a jackpot.
Keep your practice sessions short. Much more is learned in 3 sessions of 3 minutes then 3 sessions of 10 minutes. You can get dramatic results and teach your pet many new things by fitting a few clicks a day here and there in your normal routine, outside of training sessions. Example: You see your dog coming to you and you want to strengthen your recalls (come when called), you would click your clicker and deliver a few high valued treats, one after another. Don’t deliver all three treats at once. Give one treat, then give the next treat, then the last treat.
Fix bad behavior by clicking good behavior. Click the puppy for relieving itself in the proper spot. Click for paws on the ground, not on the visitors. Instead of scolding for whining or barking, click and treat for silence. Instead of yelling at the dog for going in the kitchen, ignore the dog in the kitchen and walk out, when the dog walks out of the kitchen, click and treat.
Click for voluntary (or accidental) movements toward your training goals. You may coax or lure the animal into a movement or position but, never push, force, or hold your animal into a position ever. Let the animal discover how to do the behavior on its own. If you need a leash for safety’s sake, loop it over your shoulder or tie it to your belt.
Don’t wait for the “whole picture” or the complete behavior before clicking. Click and treat for small movements in the right direction. You want the dog to sit, and it starts crouching its hind legs: Click. You want it to come when called, and it takes a few steps your way:
Click. This is called breaking the behavior down. You are not waiting for the complete behavior to happen. You are clicking for smaller parts of the behavior. This teaches the dog faster and makes the behavior more solid.
Keep raising your goal. As soon as you have a good response—when a dog, for example, is voluntarily lying down, coming toward you, or sitting repeatedly—start asking for more. Wait a few seconds, until the dog stays down a little longer, comes a little farther, sits a little faster before clicking. This method is called “shaping” a behavior.
When your animal has learned to do something for clicks, it will begin showing you the behavior spontaneously, trying to get you to click. Now is the time to begin capturing the behavior in 3 minute sessions. You will be capturing the behavior until your dog can do 30 in 3 minutes. When your dog performs 30 reps of any given behavior in 3 minutes then add the cue.
Don’t order the animal around; clicker training is not command-based. If your pet does not respond to a cue, it is not disobeying; it just hasn’t learned the cue completely. Find more ways to cue it and click it for the desired behavior. Try working in a quieter, less distracting place for a while. If you have more than one pet, separate them for training, and let them take turns.
Carry a clicker and “catch” cute or desired behaviors in the act like, laying down quietly, or army crawling, or holding one foot up, this is called “Capturing”. You can click for many different behaviors without confusing your pet.
If you get mad or frustrated, put the clicker away. Don’t mix scoldings, leash jerking, and correction based training with clicker training; you will lose the animal’s confidence in the clicker and perhaps in you.
If you are not making progress with a particular behavior, you are probably clicking too late or too early. Accurate timing is important. Get someone else to watch you, and perhaps to click for you, a few times.
Above all, have fun. Clicker training is a wonderful way to enrich your relationship with any learner.