Wednesday, February 20, 2013

My experience with Clicker training

You will see a lot of videos out telling you that using the clicker to train your dog is the "best" way to do it. I am here to tell you that it's not necessary. It's definitely great and it really does work, but it takes a lot of organization and coordination to do it. I think at the time I was trying it, I just couldn't handle all the new things of dealing with a puppy plus trying to remember a clicker and using it consistently.

But think of it this way: a clicker is $5 and there are hundreds of great youtube videos to learn how to use one, so it's possible to try it and if you don't like it or it's hard to be consistent oh well, you just lost $5! No big deal. But honestly, you don't need it at all with this breed and all the local trainers I talked to who work with Aussies recommend against the clicker because it's not useful if you plan to go on to advanced training, such as agility.

I actually starting using a clicker when Indie was a wee tiny puppy. After a while of fumbling around and coming to the realization that I probably wasn't going to go overboard on trick training, I came to the conclusion that I didn't really need it since I wasn't able to use it reliably. Indie was so smart he could figure things out pretty quickly and a verbal "GOOD DOG!" plus a treat seemed to be enough to show him he just did something right.

Here is a list of the issues that prevented me from sticking with the clicker:

1) It's so small, I couldn't always find it when I needed it! 

2) I would forget it on walks, so it was hard to be consistent with use.

3) Trying to fumble with the clicker and also a leash and a treat bag was a huge hassle.

4) It made it hard to do hand signals to train the dog in addition to my verbal cues.

There are some positives with the clicker.  The most important is that you don't have to give the dog the treat right away (since the click signals the treat) and you can throw the treat on the ground for them to eat, instead of taking it from your hand.  The benefit to that is that the dog won't be trying to always look in your hands or paw at your hands for a treat. 


  1. I actually wanted to comment on this because, I, like you, thought a clicker was a big hassle. My greatest regret is not starting my pup with a clicker and here is why:

    Yes, Aussie's are smart! You can definitely teach them teach them without one but the question is how fast do you want them to learn and how advanced do you want their tricks to be? The second I introduced Tesla to the clicker she learned a ridiculous number of tricks! It is especially helpful to teach the "stay" command and to "shape" their behavior. For example, I wanted to teach Tesla to jump on a tiny stool (this was when she was 4 months). When she pawed at the stool I would click & treat. After a few repetitions, I raised the criteria and required her to put two paws on the stool before the click and treat. It literally took her less than 5 minutes to learn that I wanted her to get on the stool!

    The greatest part about the clicker is that you can precisely reward action and you DO NOT need it to reward behaviors they already know. I only use the clicker to teach new things! For tricks Tesla already knows, I never use it. Only when I want to teach her something new or to improve a behavior. I know that they can be annoying, and I wasn't sold on them at first but after I tried a clicker, it was awesome! I highly recommend it because it if is used properly it makes training easier. I can't say enough great things about clickers...

    1. For some reason I never saw this, Timi! I was actually just coming back to this post to update it since now I kind of regret not getting more into clickers for a lot of the reasons you stated above. I will try and edit this! It's hard to foresee the future sometimes. I think when I wrote this, the clicker plus puppy was just too much for me. Now, I think I could do it.