5 Step Clicker Training for Dogs

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Have you ever wondered how professional dog trainers are able to get dogs to follow commands so efficiently? 

The secret is a technique called dog clicker training

So What is Clicker Training?

Clicker training is a form of positive reinforcement dog training based on operant conditioning. The clicker is used as a marker to indicate the exact moment your dog performs the desired behavior. The “click” sound is then followed quickly by a reward.

“The clicker bridges the communication gap between dogs and humans.” 

The clicking sound is unique and consistent, unlike verbal praise which can vary in tone and timing.

Over time, the dog learns that the sound of the click means a treat is coming. This marks and rewards system is the foundation of clicker training.

You can use the following clicker sound to create a clicking sound:

Sound Clicker Tool

Step-by-Step Guide to Dog Clicker Training 

Here is a step-by-step guide to start dog clicker training:

Step 1: Charge the Clicker

Before using the clicker in training, you need to build a positive association between the click sound and receiving a reward. This process is called “charging the clicker.”

To charge the clicker:

  • Have treats ready in your training pouch or hand
  • Make sure the dog is attentive and focused
  • When you puppy is not looking at you, say the Name
  • Click the clicker
  • Immediately give a treat afterward
  • Repeat clicking and treating 10-20 times in a row
clicker with reward, clicker training combined with treat, dog clicker,

Once the dog perks up in anticipation for a treat right after hearing the clicker, you’ve successfully charged it! The click now means a reward is coming.

Step 2: Identify the Desired Behavior

Decide what behavior you want to train first. This could be basic obedience cues like sit, down, stay, or come. Or you can teach fun tricks like shake, spin, or play dead.

  • For beginning clicker training, start with an easy behavior your dog already offers sometimes. This could be basic cues they know or simple actions like looking at you.
  • Break down complex behaviors into small incremental steps if needed. Shaping allows you to mark and reward these small steps until the full behavior is learned.

Related: How to Teach a Dog to Stay

Step 3: Marking Behaviors with the Clicker

Clicker training utilizes precise marking to reinforce desired behaviors the instant they occur. This communicates exactly what the dog is doing right in that moment.

When to Click

It’s crucial to click at the precise moment the dog is displaying the behavior you want to reinforce. For example:

  • Click when the dog’s rear first touches the ground for a “sit”
  • Click when the dog’s elbows touch the floor for a “down”
  • Click when the dog picks up or touches a target object

The timing of the click matters. You want to mark the behavior at its beginning so it’s clear to the dog what earned the reward.

Process of Marking Behaviors

Follow these steps when shaping behaviors with the clicker:

  1. Trigger – Cue the behavior using a lure, hand signal or command.
  2. Mark – Click the clicker the instant you see the desired behavior start.
  3. Reward – Quickly deliver a treat after clicking. Vary location of delivery.
  4. Release – Use a release word like “okay!” or “free” to indicate the behavior is complete.

Related Article: How to Train a Dog to Come When Called

Marking wanted behaviors and ignoring unwanted behaviors will reinforce good habits.

“Click to mark the behavior, then treat to reinforce it.”

Being patient and having good timing is key. Only click for approximations of the end goal behavior initially. Reward small successes!

Let’s see some examples of how to use the clicker when training basic obedience behaviors:

Teaching “Sit”

  • Lure the dog’s nose up over their head until their butt touches the ground.
  • The second their butt touches down, click the clicker.
  • Reward with a treat after clicking.
  • Release to end the behavior.
  • Repeat rewarding small sit approximations until the behavior is learned.

Related: How to Teach a Dog to Sit in Detailed

Step 4: Adding a Cue

Once your dog understands that the click means a reward is coming, and you’ve marked and reinforced an approximate behavior, it’s time to add a verbal cue or hand signal. This cue will trigger the desired behavior in the future.

Steps to Add a Cue:

  1. Mark and reward the approximate behavior several times until the dog offers it reliably.
  2. Give the verbal cue or hand signal right before you expect the dog to perform the behavior.
  3. Click and reward the behavior immediately after the cue is given.
  4. Gradually phase out lures and props as the dog begins performing the cued behavior.
  5. Practice the cued behavior frequently for generalization.

Adding clear cues allows you to communicate to your dog what behavior you want next.

Related: How to Teach a Dog to Lay Down

Fading the Lure

Lure techniques like holding a treat over a dog’s nose are useful when first teaching behaviors like sit, down, spin, etc. But dogs can become dependent on the presence of a lure or prop to perform a behavior.

Fading a lure is the process of gradually reducing and then eliminating the lure completely over time. This results in the dog responding to just the verbal or visual cue.

Tips for Fading Lures:

  • Quickly reward several cued behaviors that still involve the lure
  • Hold the lure slightly farther away from the dog over succeeding repetitions
  • Reward the dog for approximations of the behavior without the full lure
  • Switch to intermittent rewards after several successes without the lure
  • Keep sessions short to avoid frustration

Fading out treats, toys, props, and hands from lures is essential for dogs to generalize behaviors. Go slowly so the dog isn’t confused by the removal of the lure.

“Gradually reduce and remove lures as the dog masters behaviors.”

What Behaviors Can Be Trained Using a Clicker?

The possibilities are endless when it comes to what you can teach your dog using clicker training and positive reinforcement. Clicker training can be used to train:

  • Basic obedience cues: Sit, down, stay, come, heel, leave it, etc.
  • Fun tricks: Shake, high-five, spin, bow, play dead, roll over
  • Advanced behaviors: Fetch specific objects, tidying up toys, agility commands
  • Addressing problem behaviors: Jumping up, barking, house training, leash pulling, etc.
  • Service dog tasks: Opening doors, turning on lights, retrieving items, providing support

Any behavior a dog is physically and mentally capable of can be trained with clicker training and enough repetition.

Start with simple behaviors first before gradually working up to more complex tricks or addressing problem behaviors your dog may have. The sky’s the limit!

Do Clicker Trained Dogs Better Behave?

Dogs trained using clicker training and positive reinforcement techniques do tend to be very well behaved compared to traditionally trained dogs. There are a few reasons for this:

  • The focus is on rewarding good behaviors rather than punishing bad behaviors. This makes training more enjoyable.
  • Dogs learn quickly because the click precisely marks the desired behavior so they know when they’ve done something right.
  • Motivating dogs using rewards and praise is highly effective. They want to repeat behaviors that result in something positive.
  • Clicker trained dogs view training as a fun, rewarding activity. This makes them more attentive and eager to work.
  • Positive training strengthens the bond between dog and owner. Dogs are more responsive and attentive to owners they trust.

Research shows that dogs trained using reward-based methods like clicker training learn better and are more obedient than dogs trained traditionally using punishment and corrections. They’re enthusiastic about training because it’s a positive experience!

Common Myths About Clicker Training Dogs

While highly effective, there are some common misconceptions about clicker training that new owners often have. Here are a few myths debunked:

Myth: Clicker training takes much longer than other methods.

Fact: Clicker training actually accelerates the training process. Precisely marking desired behaviors enables faster learning. Dogs enjoy the positive approach too.

Myth: You have to carry the clicker and treat bag forever once clicker training.

Fact: The clicker is faded out over time and used only intermittently to reinforce known behaviors. Rewards are also gradually phased out.

Myth: Clicker training doesn’t address behavior problems.

Fact: Positive reinforcement can resolve many problematic behaviors. And it’s more effective than punishment-based approaches.

Myth: Using clickers is a fad with no evidence it works.

Fact: Many scientific studies have proven clicker training is highly effective for dogs thanks to how it utilizes operant conditioning principles. This positive reinforcement method works!

How to Choose the Best Clicker for Dog Training

There are a variety of clicker types and brands to choose from. Here are some key features to look for in a good clicker:

  • Consistent, resonant click sound. Avoid “muted” clickers. Metal clickers tend to be louder.
  • Small and ergonomic for easy handling. Keychain clickers are very portable.
  • Reliable mechanism. Look for sturdy, spring-loaded buttons that won’t get “stuck”.
  • Volume adjuster. Some clickers allow you to adjust loudness. Helpful for sensitive dogs.
  • Extended tabs. Makes the clicker easier to press using your thumb. Useful for training sessions.

Else you can use DogHIB’s Clicker.

Are Clicker Training Classes Effective?

Absolutely! Taking a clicker training class is a great way to learn this method, particularly as a beginner. Here are some benefits:

  • An experienced instructor guides you through the process and helps troubleshoot issues.
  • Other dogs provide socialization opportunities and distraction during training.
  • Class curriculum provides structure and step-by-step instruction from basic to advanced.
  • You’ll learn new behaviors and train in various environments.
  • Working through challenges together with a class builds confidence in handling dogs.
  • Other owners share tips and celebrate successes. The group dynamic creates encouragement.

Look for classes that use reward-based methods. Classes focused specifically on clicker training are ideal to fully learn this technique. Many facilities offer beginner and advanced clicker training programs.

Pros and Cons of Clicker Training

Like any dog training method, clicker training has both advantages and potential drawbacks:


  • Highly effective at teaching new behaviors quickly
  • Clear and precise way to mark desired behaviors
  • Easy to use for any level of dog owner
  • Motivates dogs through positive reinforcement
  • Strengthens bond between dog and owner
  • Fun, engaging mental stimulation for dogs


  • Can be noisy and distracting in public settings
  • Requires good timing and coordination when starting out
  • Need to phase clicker and treats out eventually
  • May not work for deaf dogs or dogs with noise phobias
  • Some behaviors may prove difficult to capture and mark with clicker

Overall, most dog owners find the pros far outweigh any cons of clicker training. Used properly, the clicker enables clear communication and faster learning based on positive reinforcement.

Frequently Asked Questions About Clicker Training

Here are answers to some common questions about clicker training:

Can any breed of dog be clicker trained?

Yes! The clicker method is effective for all breeds and mixes. Even independent, stubborn or challenging dogs respond well to positive reinforcement.

Is it ever too late to start clicker training a dog?

No, dogs can learn new things at any age. Even older dogs benefit greatly from clicker training. Just keep sessions short and use high-value rewards.

Do I need any special skills for clicker training?

No special skills are needed, just patience. Good timing and coordination develop quickly with practice. Clicker training classes help too.

How long do clicker training sessions last?

Keep sessions just 3-5 minutes when starting out. Young puppies have an even shorter attention span. End on a good note.

When do I stop using the clicker?

Fade the clicker out over time for well-learned behaviors. But you can use it indefinitely for intermittent reinforcement if needed.

Final Tips for Successful Clicker Training

Here are a few final tips to set you and your dog up for clicker training success:

  • Use very small, pea-sized treats easy for your dog to eat quickly. You’ll need a lot for initial training.
  • Start with one new behavior at a time to avoid confusion. Be very patient working through the steps.
  • If your timing is off, go back a step and don’t progress until previous steps are solid. Rushing will only confuse your dog.
  • Keep early sessions low-distraction until your dog understands the clicker cues. Then gradually train with more distractions present.
  • Make it fun! Use an upbeat voice, mix up rewards and end on a positive note. This builds your dog’s confidence and desire to train.

With the clicker as your “training remote”, you can easily teach your furry friend impressive behaviors! Just remember to move through the process at your dog’s pace, stay positive and have fun. Consistency and repetition will lead to success.

Now grab a clicker and get clicking – your well-trained, happy dog awaits! 

If you bookmark this for a clicker sound that we have provided, it would be highly appreciated.

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