How to Know When You Should Stop Clicker Training

The point of clicker training is that you should use a clicker until the dog connects the command to the behavior you want without hesitating.

The time to stop clicker training applies to the following.

  • Once your dog learns what you want, you can stop the clicker and continue with verbal commands for those actions instead.
  • If your dog is getting confused between the click and your verbal commands, stop until you get it sorted.
  • Stop if the sound of the clicker upsets your dog.

The clicker is very effective when teaching your dog to learn a behavior command such as ‘sit.’ Add verbal commands to connect the task to the verbal command.

When they get the task right, it means that they can connect the click and the word ‘sit’ to the behavior that got them that yummy treat.

Then when you start teaching them a new trick such as ‘roll-over,’ your dog will not get confused. They’ll hear the click, accompanied by a new word and action that they have to learn.  If you just use the clicker, it is not as clear what you want your dog to do.

So click and speak a command simultaneously till they get it, then you can stop the clicker and just use the word as in ‘sit.’

A clicker is just a tool you use to get your pet’s attention. Your dog will learn to connect the click with their actions, and when they do, they get a treat (a reward).


First, You Need To Understand How the Clicker Works

  • First of all, the clicker is simply a small mechanical noisemaker – nothing more or less than that.
  • The clicker communicates the EXACT moment your dog does what you want them to.
  • It is a form of positive reinforcement during dog training.
  • The timing of the click is important, and every click must be followed by a small tasty reward.
  • Dogs repeat behaviors when it gets them what they want, such as a treat or reward.
  • The click marks the moment. It gets your dog’s attention focused on the task that gets them the reward.
  • The click isn’t worth anything unless you pair it with a reward.
  • The click makes it clear to your dog what they are being rewarded for.
  • Training is often quicker when you use the clicker plus a verbal cue and then a reward.


Stop Clicker Training if Your Dog Becomes Anxious

If your dog has a negative reaction to the noise of the clicker, becomes anxious or nervous when you use the clicker, stop using it for now and continue with other training methods such as verbal cues (e.g., Sit!) and reward them when they achieve the task.

Clicker training makes training easier for most dogs, but it’s not required if your dog dislikes the clicker.


Stop Once Your Dog Learns the Trick

Once your dog performs the desired behavior without errors for about 90% of the time, you can slowly stop using the clicker.

The prompt execution of the task to your verbal order “sit”  without the clicker and the reward means it is time to put the clicker away.

Once they respond quickly to your verbal cues, you can continue with verbal cues from then on but use your clicker on another behavior, such as teaching them to roll over.


Use the Clicker Correctly, or Stop Using it

Sometimes clicker training is difficult to adapt to for both dogs and humans. You have to click the moment the dog squats to sit, not before and not too long after the movement. Mistakes could cause your dog to become confused about what you want them to do!

It’s better to stop clicker training than to clicker train incorrectly and confuse your dog.

The clicker also cannot stop bad behaviors. If your dog is barking, you can’t expect them to respond to a click and stop.

The clicker is not a command in itself, and it is not a mute or pause button for your dog. It may even teach them that barking is a good thing!  

It takes practice to get it right, and you must use it consistently and properly. If you haven’t got this part right, you will just confuse your dog.

So if the clicker is not working for you, move on to other training methods.


The Clicker is A Temporary Tool

The clicker isn’t designed to be used forever and a day. Use it to get what you want (your dog to learn a command). You don’t want it glued to your hand forever.

Here is how to use it correctly to begin with:

  • Go shopping for your clicker and try some out to see how they sound.
  • Many brands of clickers vary in size, button control, and sound, so get the best for your dog.
  • Practice with your clicker BEFORE you try it out on your dog. Getting the clicker to click at the time of the deed takes practice.
  • You need to click the instant your dog does the right behavior – there is no point doing it afterward!
  • Keep your treats in a handy clip-on bag where you can treat your dog the moment they get it right. They need to learn a treat is the reward if they do the chore right.
  • The click and the treat must always go together, in that order, when you are training with the clicker.
  • Start your dog with a simple trick and focus on that trick until they nail it.
  • Use a verbal command to clarify what you want, such as clicking and saying “sit” and rewarding your dog with a treat.
  • Keep your voice in a positive range. Dogs listen to the tone of your voice as much as your words.
  • Once your dog understands and connects the click, sit, and reward without hesitation, it is time to stop clicker training for that trick. Use the clicker to teach them another trick.
  • You can stop clicker training the moment your dog understands a command.
  • The clicker is a handy tool to focus your dog on the moment and your command. Once they nail a task, stop the clicker and just use verbal queues and an occasional treat.

Sometimes a dog gets ‘selective deafness’ when there are so many interesting things they want to do. The clicker click brings them back to attention, and as we all know, dogs will do almost anything for a treat.


Stop When the Clicker Doesn’t Work For Your Dog

There are times when clicker training doesn’t work for your dog, and you need to switch training methods. Some dogs may not respond well to the sound of the clicker.

Clickers do vary in the sound they make, so you could try some other models to see if you can find one your dog likes better.

But if your dog is scared or upset by the clicker, or they just don’t get it, try another training method.

You can also try adjusting your training to see if you are the problem. It could be that you’re using the clicker wrong, as I discussed above.

Be patient when clicker training until your dog connects the command to the behavior without questioning you.

Try not to teach your dog too many tricks at any one time. Get one trick mastered before you start teaching another. Slow and steady is the goal.

Regularly review your dog’s tricks so that they don’t forget them. Young dogs are distracted easily, and they have so many exciting things to do that they forget the tricks they learned if they don’t repeat them often.

Keep their training simple and fun with a reward for doing it right. The click is a positive sound linked to doing the trick in response to your command. Don’t use the clicker to get them to pay attention to you or to stop them from doing something else.

Do use new verbal cues when you switch to a new trick. Then your dog will understand this is something different that you want them to learn.

And remember to click when the behavior is happening, NOT AFTER  the task is completed.

Remember to treat your dog, or they will start to realize you are holding out on them, and they will not cooperate!


Clickers are Tools—not a Magic Solution

As mentioned throughout this article, a clicker is a useful tool that can help you train your dog to recognize what you want them to do.

You have to train yourself to click the clicker the moment your dog does what you want them to do. Then you must follow the click with the reward, a small tasty treat.

Clicker training isn’t designed to be a long-term solution. Only use it to get your dog to recognize what you want them to do during training.

Once they understand what you want, you can just use verbal cues.

You can’t use your clicker to stop your dog barking or click at them when you want them to go to sleep. It’s not a dog remote control.

It is used along with training to get your dog to focus on the exact moment they do the task right so that they understand what you are asking them to do.

In other words, it is a noisy aid to help your dog recognize and understand the message their crazy owner is trying to say to them.

Writer: Jean Brewer

Read about me