CynoCentric Training & Behavior

Clicker Training

The principles of clicker training are based on what is known about how animals learn. Clicker training is rooted in science, it is a technology that can be applied by any who learn it. Behavioral science, learning theory, and clicker training are well established. This sheet will cover some of the ‘rules’ of using the clicker effectively with your dog.

Clicker training doesn’t depend on indefinable qualities like energy or leadership. You don’t have to be born into it, or raised by wolves, and it is not a secret method known only to a select few. Learning theory, the science of behavior, and the principles and techniques of clicker training are open and available to anyone who wishes to learn, practice and master them.


The click is a promise to your dog that they will get a treat. If you click, you reward – fast. The click means that the dog’s job is over, but yours is not. Don’t break the promise.

If your hand is reaching for a treat at the same time that you are clicking, your puppy will not pay any attention to the click. You want your puppy listening for the click, not watching your hands. The click must come before you begin to reach for a treat. Keep your treat hand still while you click.



Once your puppy has learned that the click reliably predicts treats, you can use it to build and reinforce (strengthen) behaviors. You will also notice that when you click, he snaps his head and comes right to you. It is so tempting to then use the clicker to get your puppy’s attention or as a cue to come to you. Don’t do it! Remember, you get what you click. If you click while your dog is running away, sniffing in the trash, chewing a chair leg, that’s what you will get more of. 

Click only when puppy is doing stuff you love.

Timing is as important to clicker training as it is to photography. In fact, that’s a good analogy – picture in your mind the exact behavior you would like to see again. That’s what you click. Click while the behavior is happening so you can save it for your album! Click too late and you miss the shot.


Some Special Features of Clicker Training

Clicker training has some underlying principles that are helpful to understand before starting

  • the clicker marks a precise moment or behavior. Because of this, you can reward tiny pieces of behavior like lifting a foot, a head turn, and targeting
  • the focus is not only teaching behaviors, but also on the animal learning to learn and being comfortable offering behaviors, experimenting, and being an active participant
  • whenever possible, the learner is volunteering behavior and participating willingly. There is no physical force used in clicker training
  • clicker training is about building (shaping) and strengthening (reinforcing) behaviors we like. Undesirable behaviors are either prevented or replaced with more desirable behaviors.