The Clicker: Friend or Foe?

© 2012 Jerry D. Patillo, CPDT-KA

Random Thoughts on the Clicker

I am mentally developing an article on the pros and cons of using the clicker for training your dog. Following are my random thoughts on the topic. Please feel free to email me your thoughts on the subject as well:

We clicker trainers have given some of our human students the idea that we have to use the clicker the rest of the dog’s life. Not so. This idea frequently discourages the students from using the clicker at all.

The clicker is only one of many training tools. It is a very powerful tool for training your dog (or any animal with a brain: gerbils, elephants, husbands, fish, birds, and just about everything in between). Once we have the behavior that we want, then we don’t have to use it so much afterwards. We can use it again to introduce another new behavior. We can use it again to polish up an older behavior that’s gotten a little rusty.

Compare the clicker with a carpenter’s power saw. Carpenters use the power saw, along with other tools, to build a new house. When they’re finished building the house, then they put the saw away. When they want to build another house, or they want to remodel or repair the older one, then they get it out again. After they’re finished with the new project, they put it away again.

When we clicker trainers build a new behavior, so to speak, we get out our power tool, the clicker, and other training tools as well. Once we’ve built the new behavior to our satisfaction, then we put the tool away and rely on other tools for maintenance. These other tools could be a “Yes!” or “Good girl,” combined from time to time with a food treat, a scratch on the chest, chasing a toy, or taking a walk. You do have to maintain (reward) the behavior from time to time, to keep it strong and looking good. When you have to repair a behavior, then get that clicker back out to get the behavior back up to your standards. When you want to add a new room to the house (add a new behavior to your dog’s existing behaviors), get that power tool, the clicker, back out and use it to introduce another new behavior to your dog.