Home >> Clicker Primer >> Page Three
  

WHAT IS A CLICKER, AND WHY DO I NEED ONE?

A clicker is a cheap little gadget which is a reinforced version of a child's metal cockroach. When pressed, it makes a clicking sound.
The clicker has two functions:

  • it marks the exact moment at which your dog does something you want
  • it acts as a bridge to tell your dog that he's got it right and that a treat is on its way

There is no magic about the clicker. You could use anything - a snap of the fingers, a flash of light, even a word. The clicker does have some advantages which have made it the bridge (or conditioned reinforcer) of choice:

  • it produces a sound which is dissimilar to most other sounds in the dog's environment
  • it produces the same sound every time
  • it produces a sound which is clearly audible to the dog at quite a distance
  • it is quick and easy to operate (a reflex click will come out a lot faster than'good boy' will)

These are some of the reasons for the clicker being so hugely successful. Another possible reason is that the clicker has no emotional content, and is completely non-judgmental. If we use vocal praise, the dog will be quick to pick up just how pleased we really are from the tone of our voice, so if he didn't do a really good sit this time, our voice will tell him that, even though we think we're praising him; but the clicker sounds exactly the same, time after time, and this may well be why dogs respond so well to it.

So let's re-iterate - the clicker is used to mark an event, and to act as a bridge to tell your dog that a treat is on the way.