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Click for Joy!
Questions and Answers From Clicker Trainers and their Dogs

By Melissa C. Alexander
Foreword by Robert Bailey

Everywhere dogs and their people gather, clicking - and questions about clicker training - can be heard. Now Melissa C. Alexander, moderator of the online discussion forum ClickerSolutions, has gathered clear and accurate answers for over one hundred commonly asked questions about clicker training in one essential reference.

Click for Joy! is packed with information experienced trainers and newcomers alike can put to use immediately, including:

  • positive solutions to common problems
  • practical instructions to train any behavior to any level of reliability required
  • encouragement, advice, and success stories from clicker trainers around the world
  • short-term and long-term consequences of controversial training techniques
  • clear, easy-to-understand explanations of the science underlying clicker training
  • glossary of clicker training terms and concepts
  • easy-to-use cross-referencing and index

Whether you are sorting out the principles and methods of clicking for yourself or need answers for your students, Click for Joy! is the source for facts and advice that you will turn to again and again.

Publishing February 2003! Order your advance copy now!


Table of Contents


1. About Clicker Training

  • What is clicker training?
  • Will it work for my dog?
  • I’m interested in canine sports. Can a dog be clicker trained for activities such as agility, tracking, competition obedience, flyball, or Schutzhund?
  • Where can I find a class or private trainer?
  • I can’t find a clicker class. Will it confuse my dog if I attend a class that uses another method?

2. Equipment

  • What kind of equipment do I need?
  • How do I juggle all the equipment? I need eight hands!
  • Where can I get a clicker?

3. That Magical Click

  • What does the click mean?
  • Do I have to treat after every click?
  • Does the click have to be followed by a food treat?
  • Does the click have to end the behavior?
  • Should I carry the clicker around and click and treat every time I see the dog doing something I like?
  • Will I have to use the clicker and treats forever?
  • My dog is afraid of the clicker! What do I do?
  • My dog doesn’t seem to know the clicker means anything except that a treat is coming. How can I teach her that the click is an event marker?

4. Reinforcement

  • What can I use to reinforce my dog?
  • Shouldn’t my dog be working for me or for the love of the job instead of for food?
  • My dog isn’t interested in food / is on a restricted diet / is overweight. Can I still clicker train?
  • What if I can’t offer a food treat or if my dog isn’t interested in the reward I’m offering?
  • Does the reward have to follow the click immediately?
  • If the click ends the behavior, does it matter what the dog is doing when I deliver the reward?
  • Can I treat without clicking?
  • All these treats. . . am I spoiling my dog?
  • How do I move from food treats to praise only?
  • How soon should I begin doing “two-fers” and “three-fers”?

5. Getting Started

  • What is “charging the clicker,” and how do I do it?
  • Is the timing of the click important? How can I improve my timing?
  • My dog is too food-obsessed to do anything but stare at the clicker and treats. What do I do?
  • What’s a “crossover” dog?
  • Where should I start?
  • Do my dog’s emotions play any part in training?

6. Punishment, Mistakes, and Errors

  • Aren’t unpleasant consequences a normal part of learning?
  • What do I do when my dog makes a mistake?
  • What do I do if my dog intentionally disobeys a known command?
  • Shouldn’t I tell my dog both what he does right and what he does wrong?
  • What is punishment?
  • Are aversives and punishers the same thing?
    How do I solve problem behavior?
  • So let me understand this. Even if my dog is running toward a busy street or about to bite someone, I’m not supposed to use punishment?
  • I’ve read that I should mimic wolves to communicate that I’m displeased with my dogs. Is this true?

7. About Training Sessions

  • How long should I train at one time?
  • How often should I train?
  • Can I train more than one behavior at a time? How many behaviors can I train during one training period?
  • When I start a training session, my dog “throws” all of the behaviors he knows at me. Am I damaging these behaviors if I don’t reinforce them?
  • Should I keep records?
  • My dog gets bored easily. What should I do?
  • I have more than one dog. Can I train them at the same time?
  • How do I end a training period?

8. Getting the Behavior

  • What does “getting the behavior” mean?
  • What do you mean by “criteria”?
  • When should I click? (How do I choose my criteria?)
  • How do I know when to “make it harder”—increase my criteria for training?
  • I set my criteria, but my dog advanced a lot further than that. Should I raise my criteria accordingly?
  • I set my criteria, but my dog advanced a lot further than that. Should I raise my criteria accordingly?
  • How do I begin shaping?
  • My dog doesn’t “offer” behaviors. How can I clicker train?
  • How do I shape a complex behavior, such as a fast, straight, square sit?
  • How do I train a chain of behaviors, such as a formal retrieve?

9. Making the Behavior Perfect

  • How can I train a behavior before I add the cue?
  • When and how do I add the cue?
  • My dog is responding slowly to the cue. How can I get a faster response?
  • When and how do I fade the clicker?
  • How do I add duration to a behavior?
  • How do I add distance to a behavior?
  • How do I train against distractions?
  • How do I generalize to different locations and situations?

10. Reliability and Fluency

  • Are clicker-trained behaviors reliable?
  • All this cookie training is great, but how do I teach my dog there are some instances where he has no choice?
  • I don’t simply want to participate—I want to win! Are clicker-trained behaviors precise enough and reliable enough for competition?
  • You say I can do competition obedience, but I can’t use a clicker or food in the ring. How can I clicker train?
  • What is “fluent” and how do I get there?
  • How long will it take to train my dog?
  • At what point does my dog “know” what is being asked of him?

11. Specific Behaviors

  • If my dog already knows a behavior, should I use the clicker?
  • What is targeting, and why should I do it?
  • How can I get my dog to pay attention to me even in a distracting environment?
  • How do I train my dog to sit?
  • How do I train my dog to lie down?
  • How do I train my dog to come when called?
  • How do I train my dog to walk on a loose leash?
  • My dog pulls on leash, and a friend recommended a head halter. Unfortunately, my dog hates it! What do I do?
  • How do I train my dog to stay?
  • How do I crate train my dog?
  • How can I train a behavior not covered here? (Making a training plan.)

12. Solving Problem Behavior

  • How do I stop destructive chewing?
  • How do I stop my dog from barking?
  • How do I stop puppy mouthing? (Bite inhibition training)
  • How do I stop jumping?
  • How do I handle fearful behavior?
  • How do I handle aggression toward other dogs?
  • How do I handle aggression toward children, strangers, or other people?

13. Beyond Training

  • How do I build a good relationship with my dog?
  • What is management? How do I “set my dog up for success”?
  • What are the practical uses of training in everyday life?
  • My dog is constantly throwing behaviors at me, even when we’re not training. How can I stop this?
  • How can I know when my dog is stressed, and what can I do about it?
  • How do I socialize a new puppy?
  • How can I establish myself as the “leader” in my home?

14. Beyond Method: The Underlying Science

  • What is operant conditioning?
  • Are clicker training and operant conditioning the same thing?
  • What’s the difference between punishment and extinction? Which should I use and why?
  • Sometimes extinction doesn’t work. Why not and what should I do?
  • What’s a “no reward marker” (NRM)?
  • Continuous reinforcement, differential reinforcement, variable reinforcement—what do these terms mean? And how are they relevant for my training?
  • What is a keep-going signal?
  • What’s a jackpot, and when should I give one?
  • What’s the Premack principle?
  • What’s a satiation curve?

15. The Future

  • What’s the future of clicker training?



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