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 ARTICLES > Clicker Training > How Do You Do Clicker Training?
  Clicker Training  Article:


  • The Clicker (or marker) To be most effective, the marker should be:
     Unique Ė consistent Ė immediate
  • Treats and other positive Reinforces
  • Maybe a treat bag
  • Collars & Leashes
  • A good Clicker Book and Video is great to have on hand for Staff.


  1. First pair the click with the treat Ė probably not necessary in the shelter as the dogs will soon learn, but could work faster if the dog understands. CHARGING THE CLICKER
  2. After - The click marks the BH behaviour you want to reinforce.
  3. The click should always mean the same thing. ALWAYS!
    • That the behaviour is something I like
    • Youíve earned a reinforcer.
    • The behaviour is over.
      • Some trainers prefer to do it differently. If you want the dog to stay after the click then you must do it from the beginning consistently
  4. Treat after every click! Eventually the clicker will be replace by a release word and you may choose at that point to reinforce on a more variable schedule. But when using the clicker, each click is followed by a treat.
  5. Click only once! If the dog does something especially good, give a Jackpot rather than multiple clicks!
  6. A clicker is NOT an attention getter. Donít use it as such or you will undermine its effectiveness!
  7. Food is a primary reinforcer: Different foods have different values. Use a lower value food in a low-distraction environment and a higher value food for a high-distraction situation.
  8. the Clicker is the secondary Reinforcer
  9. The Click bridges the gap between the moment the behaviour happens and the time it takes for you to give the treat!
  10. If your dog is afraid of the clicker: layer the metal tab of the clicker with tape, put it into your pocket or behind your back, use rather a ball point clicker. Click each time before you feed him. Ignore fearful behaviour.
  11. Reinforce with anything the dog wants:
    • Food
    • Toys
    • Praise or attention
    • The opportunity to do something the dog wants: car, chase squirrels, etc.
    • The opportunity to perform a  well-known behaviour.
  12. Things that affect the dogs attitude towards training: If every time you call your dog and he comes you crate it or the game is over the association will become negative. Will he then still come?
    • The dogs emotional state
    • Itís health
    • Itís genetic propensity for trainability or for performing a given behaviour.
    • Stress in the Environment
    • Your attitude toward training and that behaviour
    • Significant events that occur during the training
    • The pleasantness or unpleasantness of whatever routinely follow this behaviour
    • The ďfun factorĒ
  13. Be sure to lower your dogís daily intake of food when training.
  14. For hard to treat dogs: fry up some bacon and toss the kibble into the bacon fat. If your dog has a weight problem, build toy drive by pairing the toy with his favorite treat and C/T for interaction with the toy. (make sure the toy is not accessible except when you play with him)
  15. The clicker is a bridge between the time the behaviour happens and the reward. The reward should follow as soon as possible, but a few seconds delay is OK
  16. If possible reward as soon as possible and in the same position as the click. So it is more reinforcing if you click a sit and also reward in the sitting position. However, this may be difficult in the beginning.
  17. Ninety-five percent of training problems can be traced to three basic trainer errors:
    • Poor timing
    • Faulty criteria Ė Itís important to take SMALL steps at a time. Donít expect the animal to make fast leaps in Behaviour, although sometimes they do!
      Different Criteria are things such as: distractions, duration, location, handler orientation to the dog, different handler. Make it as easy as possible to for the dog to be successful!
    • Low rate of reinforcement Ė Itís important to keep your rate of reinforcement high in order to hold the dogs attention!
  18. If your dog is food obsessed and only stares at the food:
    • Do an exercise where the dog has to look at you to get a C/T
    • Keep the treats OFF your body. Keep them in a bowl around the house or in a treat bag on your bum
    • Donít hold treats in your hand, wait until AFTER the behavior to get the treat. Donít hold several in your hand!
  19. Terminology
    • Reinforcement: any thing that increases the likelihood of the behavior recurring
    • C/T: Click/Treat Ė making the clicker sound and then dispensing a treat
    • Primary Reinforcer (PR): Anything the dog will work for such as food, play, toys, car ride. Often people donít understand what their dogs like best. When Iím out on the Agility field with Shanti and a small piece of hot dog isnít working, I can usually pull out a toy that gets her attention!
    • Secondary or Conditioned Reinforcer (SR/CR):
      This tells the dog that it has done something desirable and that a PR will follow. Also called a Conditioner Reinforcer as the animals is conditioned to itís sound. Learned signals that indicate a PR is coming! I.e.: clicker, whistle in dolphin training, bells on slot machine, tin opener for cats!
    • Cues: The signal that tells a dog what you want him to do. Only add the cue after the dog knows the behaviour!
    • Jackpots: These are exceptional treats and should only be used when the dog has performed particularly well or perhaps when getting the final shaping of an exercise. They can be either a handful of treats or an especially good one that is held back just for Jackpots.
    • BH: Behaviour Ė whatever the dog does!
    • Targeting: touching the end of a target stick or hand. Can be changed to target anything. Then to lead the dog around, weave poles, etc .

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