Clicker training has become increasingly popular, not just among professional and hobby dog trainers, but also with new owners who are just starting out on their journey of training their dog.
In fact, there are dog trainers who outfit every new client with a treat bag and a clicker regardless of the issue the dog is working on.
Is this actually useful or a fad? Does any training improve by using a clicker, or might it even get slowed down by it in some situations?
Let’s look at what the clicker does, where it helps us in dog training and where it can be superfluous.
No Really, I Love My Clicker
Before anybody thinks this is an anti-clicker manifesto, let me tell you: I love my clickers. I train my dogs with them every day and I am far from giving up clicker training. They are a fantastic high-precision tool and provide much needed clarity for dogs that are learning new behaviors which at first only occur for a short moment.
Quick Action, Quick Marker
The clicker shines as a way to mark the split second in which a dog does something correctly. This makes it invaluable whenever you teach your dog something that at first in fact only happens for a very brief moment. Behaviors like this can be a Sit Pretty (the dog sitting up like a meerkat), which requires the dog to find his point of balance – marking this with a clicker works great. It could also be a running contact on the dogwalk that you are training your dog to do in agility. By the time you would be able to yell your verbal marker, your dog has long left the contact – a clicker is highly effective in telling him exactly in which moment he was correct (when his feet hit the contact, and not 2 strides later).
For me, clickers are needed in the following cases:
- Fast Behaviors
The running contact is an example for this. Another one would be teaching your dog to rebound and clicking for his hind feet pushing off of you, or a dog learning to file his nails on a piece of sandpaper.