A clicker is a small plastic box with a thin sheet of metal inside it that makes a "click" sound when the yellow button is pressed. This "click" sound is used to mark the exact moment that the dog is doing the exercise correctly (it also marks the END of the exercise).  The dog is conditioned to anticipate a reward when it hears a single "click" (never click more than once) and so tries to repeat the behaviour in order to gain another reward. (See our Guest Article by Doris Vaterlaus).





For instance, Click here to find out how to train a dog to retrieve using a clicker.

Unfortunately, many people do not understand when and how to use clickers, resulting in disappointed owners and very confused dogs! Therefore, make sure you fully understand how, when and why you should do clicker training before trying it out on your dog.


One of the best ways to learn to use a clicker is by trying to train a HUMAN before you attempt to train a dog with a clicker. I know this sounds silly but it is great way to practice WHEN to click and also what it feels like being a "dog".

The object of the "Human Click Game" is to train your human "Dog" to do a task without speaking, gesturing, or communicating with them in any way - apart from using the clicker to indicate when they are doing the correct thing.


You will need -

  • 2 people - one to be the Trainer, the other the "Dog"
  • Rewards for the "Dog" (eg. Small coins or sweets - anything that they WANT and will happily work for!)
  • A variety of small objects (eg. A piece of paper; a pen or pencil; a pair of scissors; a small container like a plastic box or a glass jar; a clothes peg; a key; a sweet; a rubber band; in fact anything that comes to hand!)
  • Before the Game begins write the name of each articles being used on a separate piece of card or paper and mix them up, face down, so that neither of the players knows what is written on them. These small slips of paper or card will be used as a "lucky dip" to decide what the "dog" has to touch when being trained with the clicker.
  • Place the objects on a tray or on the table between the Trainer and the Dog.
  • The Trainer and the Dog must NOT speak to each other, or communicate in any way throughout the Game.
  • The Trainer picks up one of the slips of paper to see what they have train the Dog to do. Let us pretend that they pick up the word "PEN" from the slips of paper.
  • The Dog begins to move their hands over each of the objects, sometimes touching them or picking them up to see if they can get a reaction from the Trainer.
  • If the Dog moves their hand towards the pen the Trainer will CLICK with their clicker and give the Dog a reward.
  • The Dog will then try to work out why they were "clicked" and where their hand was when it happened. They will experiment and move their hand nearby where they heard the click.
  • The Trainer will then make the Click sound ( & Reward) when the Dog's hand is very close to the pen.
  • The Dog will think about where their hands were when they heard both the first and second click.... and will probably experiment further and put their hand on various objects.
  • The Trainer will then only use the clicker (& Reward) when the Dog touches the pen.
  • Dog drops the pen and picks up other objects - no click - so picks up the pen again - Click & Reward.
  • By now the dog has worked out that to get a click (& the Reward) it must pick up the pen. The Game is over.


Play this Game in different ways, practicing your timing so that the click marks the exact moment when the Dog is doing the right thing. Try swapping over so that the Dog becomes the Trainer. Find out how confusing it is being the Dog and not understanding what its expected of it. Also find out how important it is to have clear communication between Trainer and Dog. Is it more stressful for the Dog if the Reward is too exciting? What happens if the Reward is given too late?

When you are happy with this Game make it more difficult by picking up two or three slips of paper at a time and training the Dog to do something with all the articles chosen at once, or in a chain of behaviours. For instance -

  1. Write on the paper with the pen, then cut it up with the scissors
  2. Wrap the rubber band around the key then put it in the jar
  3. Put the clothes peg on the sweet then wrap it in the piece of paper.

By now you should thoroughly understand how to use a clicker properly and can now begin training and shaping your dog using the clicker.


This web site has been written by Sally Hopkins (unless the author of the web page is stated otherwise).


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