This is Part II, of Clicker Training – Getting Started. Learn how to teach your dog a simple behavior using clicker training.

Introduction to Teaching a Simple Behaviour

Supplies Needed

For the following exercises, you will need a clicker, training treats, a relatively distraction-free setting to train in and your dog! Training treats should be about pea-size and preferably moist so they can be consumed quickly without interrupting training. Examples of food you can use for food treats include semi-moist dog food, homemade treats, cheese, hotdogs and chicken. Try to reserve the “higher value” treats such as meat and cheese for training more difficult or more important behaviors such as recall (coming when called). Use your dog’s regular kibble and subtract from his meal ration if body weight is a concern. A treat bag is optional, but helpful.

Condition the Clicker

“Conditioning the clicker” means creating an association (in the dog’s mind) between the click-click sound and the food reward. Alone the click-click sound means nothing, but once paired with food it becomes a powerful conditioned reinforcer.

Basically what the clicker does is it buys time for reinforcement. To be effective, a reward or “reinforcer” must be delivered at the time a behavior occurs or no more than 1 second later. Using a clicker, we can “mark” the exact behavior we want to reinforce and “bridge” the gap between the behavior and the reward so that the animal knows exactly which behavior is being rewarded.

For this exercise you will need 10 training treats. Use a “high value” treat, or something extra tasty for this introduction to the clicker.

To “condition the clicker,” stand with your dog in front of you and simply click. Follow quickly with treat delivery from your other hand, and remember to avoid moving your treat hand until after you click. There are two options for treat delivery: you can hand the treat to your dog or toss it on the floor.

In clicker training, we aim for a “high reinforcement rate,” reinforcement rate referring to the number of rewards received over a given time interval. A high reinforcement rate facilitates learning and keeps your dog actively engaged in training. Aim for a rapid succession of 10 clicks, each click followed by a treat. Pause only for your dog to consume the previous treat before clicking again.

You only need to practice this exercise once! From here on, your dog will remember what the click means!