Clicking With Canines

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An Introduction to Clicker Training

What is "clicker training"?  This page presents the basic fundamentals of clicker training and the benefits it has for you and your dog.

A Killer Whale at Sea World Orlando
killer whale taking a bow
The clicker method is used to train all Sea World animals

The Basics of Clicker Training:

Clicker training is based upon the scientific principles of operant and classical conditioning.  It is the same technique used to train dolphins, whales and sea lions at Sea World and other marine animal exhibits across the country.  Karen Pryor, a scientist and marine mammal trainer, introduced the method to dog training in the early 1990s and coined the term “clicker training” to describe it. (Visit “clicker” is a device that makes a unique metallic “click” sound which the dog only hears when we wish to communicate to the dog that what it did is something we like and want the dog to repeat.  In other words, it “marks” behaviors that we want the dog to do.  For instance, we make the "click" happen when the dog sits, lays down, comes when called, or “goes potty.”   For each "click" the dog recieves a "paycheck" in the form of a small treat (usually the size of a pea).  The dog will begin, very quickly, to associate its behavior with making the "click" happen, which in turn predicts the reward.  Dogs begin repeating the behaviors we "clicked" for because it earns a "paycheck."  Behaviors we don't "click" for will fade away since no "click" means no reward.  Once the dog knows the behavior, we add a word, for instance, “sit,” and then phase out the clicker.  Finally, we phase out the treat and replace it with praise (GOOD BOY!).  

Training a dog with the clicker method is really quite simple:  click (and treat) for behaviors we desire and ignore the ones we don't.  Managing the dog's environment so we set him up to succeed (for instance, keep the roast off the counter when the dog is left in the kitchen alone) is also important during training.  Anyone can do this and even kids (10 and up) can be great at clicker training their dogs.

Dolphins at Sea World in Orlando
dolphins at Sea World
A whistle is used instead of a clicker so they can hear it underwater

The Benefits of Clicker Training:
The “clicker” actually provides what many of us have dreamed of:  a way to communicate with our dogs.  The method also teaches dogs how to learn and solve problems mutually beneficial to dog and owner.  Most importantly, since the dog is always rewarded for desired behavior, and never punished for incorrect behavior, the bond between dog and owner is enhanced with every click.  Dog training (learning) becomes a positive two-way conversation, which is both educational and fun for the dog and you.Training with a clicker teaches dogs to choose proper household manners and perform requested behaviors because THEY want to.  The relationship between dog and owner becomes a partnership.Dogs as young as 8-10 weeks can begin clicker training and there is no upper age limit.

Training can be adapted to the needs and time constraints of each individual owner.  Training can be accomplished with a minimum of 3-5 minute periods, twice a day, but formal training periods are not necessary.

Choke, pinch, or electronic collars are not necessary, nor allowed in our facility.

Kara and Nickel

Cougar and Kara

Clicker Training in Six Steps:

     1.  Charge the clicker

     2.  Get the behavior

     3.  Mark the behavior

     4.  Reward the behavior

     5.  Fade in the cue/fade out the clicker

     6.  Fade in praise/fade out the treat


Steve Benjamin, KPA CTP
Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner
Karen Pryor Academy Faculty Member
P.O. Box 5715
Endicott, New York 13763