How does Clicker Training Work?

This month we have included a Clicker in The Woof Club Boost Box for March.

If you own a dog, then you have probably heard about clicker training, but how does clicker work?

Well it’s a technique based on the use of a small, handheld object that makes a sharp “click” noise when pressed. It’s simple and it’s fun. Dogs of all breeds, ages and training levels can learn new things with the help of a clicker.

All you need is a little time, a clicker, some treats and of course your dog – it actually works for cats, horses and parrots too!

How do I Start?

The most important thing to remember when starting clicker training with your dog is to get the timing right. The click should happen at the exact same time as the desired behaviour and should then be followed by a tasty treat.

                                                                 click = treats = something positive

To start off clicker training, you need to create the positive link between the treat and the clicker in the dog’s mind. The best way to do this is to click and treat a dozen times in quick succession. The dog will very quickly associate the “click” with a tasty treat. Once the association is made then the training can begin. This should be done in several short sessions each day.

Why does it Work?

We often use just food as a lure to teach our dogs. If we want the dog to lie down, we lower the food in front of them and give it to them when they have followed the food down into the lying position.

By using a clicker, we are using a different training technique, known as shaping. Essentially, we are asking the dog to figure out what he needs to do to earn a reward. There is no luring or prompting in any other way. All we do is click and treat for each baby step in the right direction, until we have achieved the finished behaviour desired.


For example, let’s say we want to shape a dog to lie down on a mat.  At first, click and toss a bite of food every time he looks at the mat, even if it’s just a brief glance.  Pretty soon, he will figure out that the mat is the key to getting treats!  Eventually, he’ll offer to take a step towards it – click and reward for this.

From there, it’s a matter of waiting for the dog to do just a tiny bit more for each click.  Sniffing the mat – click and treat.  One paw on the mat – click and treat.  Both front paws on – click and treat.  All four paws on the mat – click and treat.

At this point, you will have a dog who can’t wait to run over to the mat and stand on it in order to earn a click – all this can be achieved without getting out of your chair, or giving any prompting at all.  Pretty simple eh?

Shaping a new behaviour can take a bit longer than luring it, but it’s great fun to watch a dog using his brain to work things out independently. Most dogs LOVE clicker training once they understand the game.

Some Frequently asked Questions

 Can I achieve the same thing by just saying “good dog”?

Well… yes and no.  Most dogs quickly learn that praise is linked to getting a reward in training.  But the advantage of using a clicker is that it’s a unique sound that can’t be mistaken for anything else.  Most of us talk to our dogs a lot, so it’s easy for verbal praise to get lost in the constant barrage of words. The click stands out!

It’s possible to use another distinctive signal to achieve the same thing. A deaf dog can be trained using a flashlight or a thumbs up sign for instance.

 Do I always have to give a treat after I click, or can the click be a reward by itself?

Yes, if you click, you must give a treat.  Always.  No exceptions and no matter how long you have been working with the clicker. The clicker is only useful because it tells the dog that a treat is coming.  If there is no treat, then the clicker will loose its power very quickly.

If I use the clicker to train a behaviour, will I have to continue using it forever?

No, not at all! Once the dog has learned the new skill on cue you can just reward the behaviour with a treat alone.

Can I use the clicker to tell my dog to do something, or to stop doing something I don’t like (like barking, jumping, etc.)?

No, the clicker only rewards a desired behaviour. Nothing more. It is not a cue for your dog to do something in particular. Undesirable behaviour should be ignored, or you should try to distract your dog by asking him to do something else like come to you and sit.  If your dog stops the undesirable behaviour for even a second or does come to you and sit, then you can click and reward. However, you need to be very careful and quick with your timing so as not to reward the wrong behaviour. Be careful what you click for!

You also shouldn’t click when your dog is doing something you don’t want, like barking for attention or jumping up to say hello.  Remember that the click tells your dog, in effect, “Yes!  That’s correct.  You’ve just earned a treat.”  So be careful what you click for!

We have included in our Boost Box a step by step guide  How to Train your Dog using a Clicker.


If you have missed the March Woof Club Boost Box please get in touch either via the CONTACT US page  on our web site or send us an email to and we will be happy to send you a

Happy training and don’t forget to send us your pictures or videos of your dog performing his new tricks.


image credits:   @barked   @onewithdog