How to Clicker Train Your Dog

Two Parts:Preparing to Clicker Train Your DogTraining Your Dog With a Clicker

Clicker training is a popular way to train your dog and reward his good behavior. It can be fun for you and your dog and often produces quick and effective results.[1] Clicker training is based on the scientific concept that an animal will continue to do a behavior that is rewarded.[2] Once your dog understands what the clicker is all about, you will be able to teach him all kinds of tricks with plenty of rewards along the way.

Part 1
Preparing to Clicker Train Your Dog

  1. Image titled Clicker Train Your Dog Step 1
    Learn how to use a clicker. A clicker, which is available at your local pet store, is a small, handheld plastic device with a button or small metal tongue that you press down on to make a clicking noise.[3] The key to using a clicker is to use it at the exact moment that your dog performs the expected behavior. The sound of a click should always be followed by some type of reward (eg, food, toys, verbal praise).[4]
    • Keep in mind that the clicker is the signal that a reward is coming, rather than being the reward itself.
    • With the clicker, your dog will learn two main things–the exact moment that he is doing the right thing, and that a treat always comes after the click.[5]
    • The clicker can be a much more precise method than verbal cues ("good" or "thanks") to communicate with your dog during a training session. This can help speed up the pace of training.[6][7]
    • You could think of the clicker like the winning buzzer on a game show–the noise signals the exact moment that the correct behavior or action is being performed.[8]
  2. Image titled Clicker Train Your Dog Step 2
    Introduce your dog to the clicker. Before you can use the clicker for training purposes, you will need to teach your dog what the clicker means to him. This is known as “charging” the clicker.[9] While you are in the room with your dog (any quiet room will do), hold a treat in one hand and the clicker in the other. Press down on the clicker once. When your dog turns to you at the sound of the click, immediately give him the treat.[10]
    • You will need at least a handful of treats, since you will be practicing this over and over.
    • Repeat this several times. Vary the amount of time that you hold the treat in your hand before using the clicker so that your dog does not begin to expect when the treat will come.[11]
    • If your dog wants to sniff and try to get at the treat, keep your hand closed and wait until he loses interest in the treat before using the clicker.[12]
  3. Image titled Clicker Train Your Dog Step 3
    Observe your dog’s response to the clicker. Some dogs may be sensitive to the sound of the clicker. If your dog runs away when he hears the clicker, the sound is probably a little too harsh for him. To soften the sound, you could wrap a towel around the clicker. You could also use a different clicking device, such as a ballpoint pen, that would have a quieter clicking sound.[13]
    • If he continues to run away from the clicking noise, you will probably need to rely more on verbal cues to train him.

Part 2
Training Your Dog With a Clicker

  1. Image titled Clicker Train Your Dog Step 4
    Choose a quiet location. Once your dog has learned what to expect with the sound of the clicker, you can use it to train him to do different commands (e.g., sit, down, stay). It would be best to train him in quiet location without other people or distractions around.[14] If you have a fenced in backyard, you could also clicker train him outside.
    • As your dog becomes more comfortable with clicker training, you can use the clicker in areas that are louder or have more distractions (e.g., room with a TV on, dog park).[15]
  2. Image titled Clicker Train Your Dog Step 5
    Click when your dog is in the act of good behavior. One method of clicker training your dog is called “catching”– you will click as soon as you catch your dog doing a good behavior that he’s already pretty good at doing on his own. For example, if he is in the room with you and decides to lie down to get more comfortable, click as soon as he lies down and immediately throw him a treat. When he gets up to eat the treat, wait until he lies down again and repeat the process.[16]
    • The “catching” method will only work when your dog already knows how to do the good behavior without being commanded to do so.
    • The clicker training will reinforce to him that he is doing the right thing, which will encourage him to repeat the good behavior.
  3. Image titled Clicker Train Your Dog Step 6
    Use the clicker at each small step of a new behavior. This is called “shaping”– by using the clicker and immediate reward at each small step, you are shaping the new behavior as a whole.[17] For example, if you want to train your dog to go lie down in a specific area, click and reward him as soon as he turns his body in the direction of that area. You can then click and reward him at each small step: beginning to walk to the new spot, arriving at the new spot, starting to lie down, and fully lying down on the floor.
    • By using the clicker and reward at each small step, you will be providing him with continual positive reinforcement as he is learning the new behavior. He will think that this learning is fun and will likely perform the new behavior with eagerness.[18]
    • You may need to practice each step of the new behavior over and over again before moving to the next small step.[19]
  4. Image titled Clicker Train Your Dog Step 7
    Use a food lure. For this method, the treat is used to lure your dog into doing the expected behavior. A food lure is commonly used when training a dog to lie down. For this behavior, you would hold the treat right in front of your dog’s nose and slowly move the treat down to the floor. Your dog will follow the treat down. When his elbows hit the floor, immediately click and reward him with the treat.[20]
    • When you see that your dog consistently responds with the food lure, remove the food lure but continue to hold your hand in front of his nose as if you have a treat. When he lies down, immediately use the clicker and give him a treat.
    • Eventually, your dog will learn how to lie down by following only your hand signals without the lure of a treat.
    • The “lure” method can sometimes be quicker than the “shaping” or “catching” methods.[21]
  5. Image titled Clicker Train Your Dog Step 8
    Add a verbal cue. Adding a verbal cue is helpful regardless of which method of clicker training you have been using to train your dog. You will say the cue first and then wait for your dog to do the desired behavior. As soon as he does the behavior, click and reward him with a treat.[22]
    • Your verbal cue should be short and direct, such as "sit" or "down." Sentences, such as "Be a good boy and stay" or "Roll over for mommy" would be too long.
    • Make sure that you give the verbal cue before your dog does the behavior so that he knows to listen for your command and then respond to it.[23]
    • If you have used the “lure” method, give the hand signal after saying the verbal cue.[24]


  • Keep the clicker training sessions short (15 minutes or less).
  • Consider clicker training your dog when he is hungry. If he is full, he may not be as interested in working for food.
  • When you clicker train, use small and soft treats that your dog can eat quickly and easily. Dog treats are available at your local pet store.
  • Clicker train your dog when you are in a good mood.[25] The training sessions should be enjoyable for the both of you. If you are in a good mood, chances are that your dog will respond favorably to your positive energy.
  • If you are having trouble clicker training your dog on your own, you can sign up for clicker training classes or have him trained by a professional dog trainer.[26] Talk with your veterinarian to learn more about dog training classes.

Sources and Citations

Show more... (23)

Article Info

Categories: Clicker Training Dogs