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Dog Clicker Training - Getting Started

Updated on May 7, 2011

In the beginning, the first thing you need to do it associate the clicker noise (also called a 'marker') with a reward. Once your dog gets this you are half way there. This dog clicker training stuff is going to be fun! That is the key… FUN!

Decide early on what you are going to use as a reward for your dog. Most dogs love to eat so it makes sense that food is going to be their reward. You could also use their favourite toy if they have one. Try both and see which works best. Its often a good thing to vary rewards. If you are going to use food treats try not to use something that is too rich or fatty. Try to use something they like, which is already a part of their diet. This way you are not adding extra calories and naughtiness. Chicken roll is ideal. It is processed meat pre-cut into 15 or so very thin slices. It’s cheap, lean, tastes good (to dogs at least!) and can be cut into inch squares. It fits easily between your fingers so you can lead your dog’s movements with your hand. This works well in the twist and spin lesson.


Let’s start… You should have your clicker and a good quantity of treats. Find a quiet place without distraction so it is just you and your dog. There are a couple of ways you can start.

  1. Use the clicker to get your dog’s attention then straight away give them a treat. Repeat this until they begin to get the idea.
  2. Scatter some treats on the ground and wait for your dog start eating them. Maybe five or ten to begin with. As your dog eats each one make a click-click noise. Keep doing this until all the treats have gone.

Whichever method you use to start you dog will begin to associate the 'click-click' with a treat and they will soon learn that a click = food in mouth. Once this is in place we can tell them what to do for another treat, i.e. a movement or action

This process is often referred to as ‘charging’ the clicker. This should be done for the first few sessions so that your dog gets into the mindset for what will follow. Also, make a fuss and use some familiar phrases at the beginning of each session. Get excited, ask them “Are you ready?! Are you ready?!” They will start to know when they are about to get clickered!


Either way of charging the clicker works but you may find one works better for you or your dog. With the first method you intentionally catch your dog's attention, rather than waiting for them to do something when they choose then coming to expect a treat afterwards. The second method may not be the best way when it comes to more specific commands, as your dog may not know what they have just done to get a treat. It could take longer for them to catch on to the action or movement they did in order to replicate it when required. If you use method one, reward immediately then turn away to allow them to continue sniffing around, or whatever else they were doing. Click again to get their attention before immediately giving the treat.

Timing is the key element of dog clicker training. The action or movement your dog makes must be clicked at the specific point it begins. As you will learn from the sit lesson the click comes as your dog decides they will start to put their back end down to the ground, not after they sit and not before they sit - it must be as the movement to sit begins.

As you practice you will start to see how your dog reacts to the clicker. It may take a two or three clicker sessions, depending on your dog and your patience. You want to get your consistently reacting to the clicker and for them to show you they are ready to progress.


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