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8 November 2023 in Tips & Advice

How ‘the clicker’ works in dog training !


When it comes to dog training, effective communication is the key to success. Clicker training, a powerful tool, has transformed the way we communicate with our canine companions. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the principles of clicker training in dog obedience. We’ll also delve into real-life examples of how it can be used to enhance training precision, including counterconditioning and conditioned emotional responses.

Chapter 1: Understanding Clicker Training and Classical Conditioning

Let’s begin by examining the fundamentals of clicker training and its foundation in classical conditioning:

1.1. Classical Conditioning Basis: Clicker training relies on classical conditioning. By consistently pairing the sound of the clicker (a neutral stimulus) with a treat (a reward), the clicker becomes a conditioned stimulus. Over time, dogs learn to associate the click with a positive outcome, making the click itself meaningful.

1.2. Creating a Bridge: The clicker serves as a bridge between the desired behavior and the reward. It communicates to your dog that the behavior they just exhibited is what you want and that a reward is forthcoming.

Chapter 2: How Clickers Improve Dog Training

Now, let’s explore how clickers can be effectively applied to improve your dog’s behavior:

2.1. Basic Obedience Training: Clickers are invaluable tools for teaching fundamental commands like “sit,” “stay,” and “down.” The precise timing of the click helps dogs understand precisely which behavior earned them a reward.

2.2. Shaping Complex Behaviors: For more complex tasks, like teaching your dog to retrieve, clickers help break down the task into manageable steps. Clicking for each successful step guides your dog toward the final goal.

2.3. Recall Training: Clickers reinforce the importance of coming when called during recall training. The timing of the click communicates the desired behavior effectively.

Chapter 3: Real-Life Examples of Clicker Training, Counterconditioning, and Conditioned Emotional Responses

Here are practical scenarios that illustrate how clickers can be used effectively in training, including counterconditioning and conditioned emotional responses:

3.1. Counterconditioning Fearful Behavior: If your dog exhibits fear or anxiety in specific situations, such as meeting strangers, counterconditioning with a clicker can help. Pair the fear-triggering stimulus with a click and a reward. Over time, your dog will associate the situation with positive experiences and reduce fear.

3.2. Conditioned Emotional Response to Thunderstorms: Dogs often develop anxiety during thunderstorms. Clicker training can help create a conditioned emotional response to thunderstorms. Play a recording of thunder softly and click and reward your dog for calm behavior. Gradually increase the volume, continuing the process, until your dog remains calm during actual storms.

Chapter 4: Tips for Effective Clicker Training

To make the most of clicker training, consider these essential tips:

4.1. Timing is Crucial: Click at the precise moment your dog exhibits the desired behavior to reinforce the association effectively.

4.2. Consistency: Use the same clicker for training sessions and maintain a consistent reward schedule to reinforce learning.

4.3. Pair Clicks with Rewards: Always follow the click with a treat. This reinforces the association and motivates your dog to continue exhibiting the desired behavior.

4.4. Never use the clicker to get your dogs attention:  A common mistake people make is to use the clicker to get their dogs attention or to aid in a recall situation when they realise that when the dog hears the click, they come running. The risk with this is that, whilst it might work to get your dogs attention, when they come to you for the reward they are actually associating that reward with the action they were doing when they heard the click. They might come to you for the reward, however you might be accidentally re-enforcing an undesirable behaviour in the process. The clicker should only be used to indicate to the dog the action they performed is correct, never as a way to get their attention. 


Clicker training is a powerful method that enhances communication between you and your dog during training. By understanding the principles of classical conditioning and incorporating clickers into your training routine, you can achieve more successful training sessions and better behavior outcomes. Whether you’re addressing fears, anxiety, or teaching basic commands, clicker training offers a precise and effective approach.

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