The basic idea behind using a clicker for training is Pavlov and Pavlov’s dog. Pavlov was a scientist who did experiments with dogs. He noticed that dogs drool when they eat; so he started ringing a bell every time he fed the dogs. Soon, he could ring the bell, and the dogs would drool even though there was no food involved. That’s how we know dogs think by association. They associated the bell with the food. That same idea is behind the use of the clicker. If you click every time you give the dog a treat, the dog will associate the click with the treat. The dog will come to know that the click means it did something right.
Use the clicker as a marker to mark when your dog does what you want. If you tell it to sit, click as soon as its butt hits the floor. Timing is very important when using a clicker too. If you tell your dog to lie down, click as soon as its belly hits the floor. You never want to use the clicker just to get your dog’s attention, or allow your children (or you) to just click over and over again just to hear the sound. This will cause the dog to start ignoring the sound and not associate it with a treat and doing something good. To introduce your dog to the clicker, do a simple exercise like “watch me”. Say your dog’s name, lure them to look at you by bringing the treat from the dog’s nose up to in between your eyes, while saying, “Watch me.” When your dog looks at you, click, say “Yes”, and give the treat. You can even just introduce it by clicking and giving a treat at the same time over and over, so the dog associates the click with a treat.
Soon the clicker can take the place of the treats, so you don’t have to use treats every time. You want to continue to use them occasionally so that you maintain the association, but for the most part you can just use the click. Some people find the clicker too hard to use because they have too much in their hands: the clicker, the treat, the dog leash. I find the clicker to be a great communication device with your dog, since dogs rarely listen to the words coming out of your mouth. It is worth it to get used to using the clicker.
• Associate the clicker with a treat for your dog.
• Only use the clicker to mark good behaviors.
• Don’t use the clicker to get the dog’s attention or as a noise maker.
• The clicker can take the place of treats for your dog.