Clicker Training what is is and why does it work?

Clicker training comes from the branch of psychology known as behaviourism and is based on the idea that behaviour that is rewarded is likely to be repeated. The reward is usually food because most animals are motivated by food but can also be a toy or game or chest scratch.

Timing is everything in clicker training and the animal must know the exact moment it is doing the behaviour you want.

So how do you let your dog know the exact moment it is doing the behaviour you want? It is very difficult to pop a treat into an animal's mouth as it is in midair going through a tyre jump or a tunnel. This is where the clicker comes in.


First you have to pair the noise of the clicker to a treat. Before you start clicker training you click the clicker and give your dog a treat many times over so the dog associates the click with a treat. When the dog now hears the click it knows something good is coming. Very fast he will make the connection,  that whatever he was doing when you clicked, was correct and will bring him a treat. The dog will become eager to show behaviour, which brings him clicks and treats. If your timing with clicking is good, he will repeat what you wanted him to do.

In clicker training you usually start rewarding behaviour that gradually approaches the behaviour you want and build on it slowly, requiring that the dog does a little bit more for every click.

A basic example: if you want to train you dog to sit you can click first if the dog just bends it's back legs. Then you click again if it goes a little bit further down next time. The dog starts to work out what you want. It might try something else but you just wait for it to start doing what you want and click again. This is called shaping the behaviour.

You can also lure the dog to try and get the behaviour more quickly. If the dog suddenly does what you want in one huge step you can click and give a very big or especially delicious treat (a jackpot).

As the dog starts getting the idea you vary the amount of times you click. At first you click for every time the dog offers the behaviour and then every second time and then you vary it so that you click once for one behaviour and then once for 5 times and then once for every second time. You have to use your discretion though because different dogs learn at different speeds and have different levels of confidence.

An important rule is that every time you click you treat your dog otherwise the clicker loses its power! As training progresses you end up clicking less often.
Clicker training is like the power steering of training. It enables you to get your timing perfect and communicate it to your dog with a clear unmistakable signal.

There is clicker training offered at the Windhoek Dog Club, if you are interested to have it explained and showed, please contact the committee or your trainers.

©Copyright by Angela Curtis