A clicker is a small device that makes a clicking sound. To your dog this sound soon comes to mean, “Wow, I’ve just done the right thing and now I’m going to get a reward”. The reward can be anything that will motivate your dog – usually a food treat, but play, praise, or toys can also be used.
Before you can use a clicker as a training tool your dog must first associate the sound made by the clicker with the imminent arrival of a reward (food treat). This is usually done by repeatedly clicking and rewarding your dog within 1 to 5 seconds after each click. Once your dog has made this association, clicker training goes something like this: Your dog performs the required action or part of it, you immediately click to mark this point, and follow up with a reward for your dog.
The clicker marks the behaviour you wish to reinforce; it tells you’re dog that “what you have just done is right and will be rewarded ”, and it marks the end of the behaviour.
There are several ways to start working on a new behaviour with your dog.
Once you have your dog reliably offering the behaviour you want, you are ready to introduce a cue. This can be a hand signal, sound or verbal cue.
The best way of all to get started with clicker training is to come with your dog on a course. It is much more fun in practice than it sounds in this description! The best part of all is seeing the enjoyment your dog gets from using his brain and succeeding!