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Clicker Training for Dogs – Name Game & More

Clicker training works on a variety of animals.  However, as dogs are man’s best friend, they tend to be incredibly eager to please and therefore respond well.  In fact, learning how to use clicker training for dogs is a great way for humans to learn the basics – dogs are easy to read and more responsive than other common pet-students like birds and cats.  You can find out more about the training tools we use on the Training Tools page; but for most people, a regular clicker will work fine.


Clicker Training for Dogs

Using clicker training for more advanced tricks will be covered later.

Once Trooper understood that a click was equivalent to a treat, he was eager to engage in behavior that elicited a click.  At first, he did not understand which particular action of his was responsible for me pressing the clicker.  As I got better at clicking with accurate timing and he started eliminating certain components of a behavior, his success rate increased.  Eventually, he could identify almost immediately what I had clicked and then would offer it again.  (I’ve noticed that Aussies are very good at this.  Beware of allowing them to fixate on a certain behavior for too long because you may see a decreased effort to show new behaviors.)

When I was looking for behavior sequences (go to door, press button, lay down) we would just work on each component individually and then I would ask for them together (more on this later).


The Name Game

A simple and reliable command to start off your clicker training is saying your dog’s name.  Most dogs enjoy hearing their owner say their name so they naturally respond.  It goes like this –

  1. Say the dog’s name
  2. If dog responds with any indication, click and reward (try throwing the treat because it gets them away from you and sets you up so you can say their name again)
  3. Repeat


Clicker Training for Dogs – A few things I’ve learned

  • Watch your body language.  You may find you are encouraging or helping your dog cheat by tilting your head, lifting your arm, etc.  The goal is for the dog to try behaviors to win the click; not to follow your body language.

Zuke’s mini dog treats are great for jackpots.

  • Save ‘big praise’ for really difficult tricks.  The click-treat will be a good enough reward for most tricks.  When you break out in a happy dance to celebrate a challenging victory, you’ll make the experience feel really special.
  • Another form of ‘big praise’ is a jackpot.  Occasional jackpots are sudden, surprising and work great to reinforce novel behavior or difficult stunts.  What is a jackpot?  Think like a casino – a lot at once!  Dump out a generous portion of treats and you have a jackpot.  For more on jackpots, check out this article.


Trooper and I just made a summary video of the introduction to clicker training for dogs.  Trooper was acting a little on the lazy side yesterday afternoon, so you’ll have to excuse his rather lackluster response.  He has always been into staring unblinkingly at my face…