Clicker Training & Marking Behaviour

Updated: Aug 6, 2019

Should I use a clicker? you ask. It's not a simple yes/no answer here's why.

I love using a clicker, I use one with my dogs and introduce at intermediate, reactive and vet handling classes because with a clicker comes precision, If used properly.

I don't use a clicker working with noise-sensitive, nervous or very anxious dogs, nor do I use it in my beginner's classes.

WHY! you exclaim, it's such a great tool!

The reason for this is simple. Too much going on! Imagine having a new dog, attending a new class, you're asked to learn new skills and to train your dog, do this whilst capturing their attention, holding a lead, marking the behaviour at the exact time it happens, then treating. Throwing a clicker into the mix as well sees people abandoning it very quickly. Instead, we mark the required behaviour using a word at this level, only once comfortable with everything else we have to do in training will I introduce the clicker.

What do I mean when I say "mark" the behaviour?

Marking behaviour is to communicate with your dog when a required action has been performed, either after a cue or a natural act offered. Achieved using a word, hand signal, sound or clicker training can become fun and interactive.

When using a word marker make sure it is short, for instance, say "good" instead of "good girl". "Good" will capture the exact behaviour whereas "good girl" is long enough to incorporate a second, possibly unwanted behaviour.

This is how clicker training works

Ask the dog to sit

Dog goes to sit

As dogs bum hits the floor you click


The rules

Only click once

Reward every time you click

When the action is being performed 98% of the time vary how often you click

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Institute of Modern Dog Trainers
Pet Industry Federation