Ohio dog trainer Gloria White compares the clicker to a camera. Why?
“You click to ‘take a picture’ of the appropriate behavior,” she says. In other words, both clicker and camera are used to capture a moment. With the camera, you get a picture and if you are lucky, you get a really good one. With the clicker, you get a behavior and if you are lucky, here too you get a really good one! You try to snap at the exact second that your dog or puppy does just what you want, for both camera and clicker.
Then in clicker training you give the dog a treat, most often probably a morsel of food but it could be praise or something else.
Just as kids in this digital age often come over to you to see the image on the camera, so too the dogs develop the knowledge that the click of the clicker means something good is coming.
I’m not sure how far I can push this analogy, but I’ll go for a bit more. With that click of the camera, we’ve created an image in JPG or other format. We can put it on our computers and change it in lots of ways — make it smaller, cut parts out, make it brighter, share it with other people via email or websites online, prints or digital photo album at home. With the click of the clicker, we create a moment of connection with the dog. It’s done and can’t in itself be manipulated like that JPG image. But over time, as we do clicker training with our dogs and puppies, we can do the same things that we do with a photo! We and the dog can change the behavior to make it more precise, to make it be more complicated. We can show it off to others and often get some nice appreciation.
Here’s a very popular clicker: