How Does Clicker Training Work?
Clicker training is a positive reinforcement technique where you use a clicker to mark your dog’s good behaviors.
The value in using a clicker is that you can be very precise with which good behaviors you are marking and rewarding, clicking at the exact moment that your dog – for example – lets the leash go slack during a walk, or looks up at you when you ask for his attention.
Types of Dog Training Clickers
Clickers are small mechanical noisemakers that emit an audible click when pressed. While they all generally work the same way, there are some differences between devices that may make one more desirable for owners over another.
- Box Clicker. Bulky, rectangular metallic clickers that are louder than standard clickers, making them ideal for outdoor and long-distance training.
- Standard Clicker. A classic, no-frills clicker with a medium click sound. The most common type of clicker you’ll see online and in stores.
- Adjustable-Tone Clicker. A few clickers offer the ability to adjust the volume of the clicker depending on the environment or your dog’s sensitivities.
- Soft Clicker. Some clickers are designed to have a softer clicking sound, which is ideal for nervous or easily-frightened dogs.
- Ring Clicker. Clickers which can be looped around a finger, making them easy to maneuver when your hands are full.
Best Dog Training Clicker Reviews
You can watch our video review of the clickers here, or keep reading for our written reviews.
1. Karen Pryor i-Click Clicker
The Karen Pryor i-Click Clicker comes from the queen of clicker training herself! This trainer-favorite clicker is designed to emit a quieter click, making it great for shy or nervous animals.
- Small & Compact. This clicker is small enough to be hidden in your hand, avoiding the clicker becoming a visual cue.
- Low-Pressure. Only needs a small amount of pressure to click.
- Great for Mobility-Impaired. This clicker is designed to be easy for arthritic hands and can even be strapped to a wheelchair so that it can be clicked with the palm of your hand (rather than a finger) or even your chin.
- Available in several colors. Comes in red, green, black, blue, and purple. Also available in 3-pack, 5-pack, or 30-pack
NOTE: It’s important to purchase this clicker only from the Karen Pryor online store, since counterfeit versions are common on Amazon and on other online retail stores.
Owners of sensitive or anxious pets really appreciated Karen Pryor’s softer click sound, noting that other clickers were too loud and frightening for their pets.
There are quite a few knock-offs of the Karen Pryor clicker floating around online. These are reported to be less high-quality, so make sure to buy from the Karen Pryor website!
Our Take: The more I use this clicker, the more I love it. It’s super comfortable and the raised positioning of the button makes it really easy to press. It’s also small enough that I can tuck it under my sleeve when I’m not using it, and I barely notice it’s there.
2. PetSafe Clik-R
About: The PetSafe Clik-R is a ring-style clicker that can be looped around your finger, making it great for multi-tasking. Since it can easily be attached to your fingers without getting in the way, it’s great for wearing around inside and rewarding good behaviors as you see them.
- Quite Click. This click is clear and audible, but quieter than some other clickers.
- Elastic Finger Band. The elastic finger band is very comfortable and makes it easy to keep this clicker on you without requiring you to constantly hold it.
- Addition Loop for Lanyard. Includes a bottom loop for attaching to a lanyard or bracelet.
Users described this click as a soft plastic click, rather than the loud metallic click of some other clickers. Owners adored the finger strap, which they found to be comfortable and incredible useful
Probably not the best for outdoor or distance training since the click is on the quieter side.
Our Take: This is my favorite clicker to use on walks because I can easily hold the leash and this clicker in one hand. Having this clicker looped around my finger means there is no way to drop it, so whether I’m picking up poop or fiddling with my treat pouch, my clicker is always close by.
3. PetSmart Box Clicker
About: The Patty Both Box Clicker (also available at PetSmart) is a metallic box clicker that emits a loud, piercing click that can be heard even at a distance outside. Owners who find most clickers too quiet are big fans of this box clicker.
- Loudest Click. This box clicker features a loud metallic click designed to be used even at a distance outdoors.
- Bulky Size. These clickers are on the bigger and bulkier side, which can make them a bit more work to hold, but they won’t get lost and are powerful as a result.
- Durable. Many find metal box clickers to be more reliable and durable than plastic varieties.
- Keychain Attachment. Includes a metal keychain attachment that can be connected to a lanyard or other device.
Owners who felt that standard clickers were too quiet absolutely adored these clickers for their loud, attention-grabbing click.
Due to the bulky size and need to press down on the metal, these likely aren’t ideal for the mobility-impaired. One individual found that this box clicker broke almost immediately. Unfortunately, box clickers are rare to find in stores, so it may be difficult to find alternatives to this version.
Our Take: I wasn’t a huge fan of this box clicker. The recessed button was annoying to press, and the materials simply felt cheap. I used a box clicker I picked up from PetSmart – there’s a possibility that those ordered online could be better quality, but hard to say for sure.
4. EcoCity Pet Training Clicker
About: The EcoCity Pet Training Clicker is a set of basic, no-nonsense clickers. With an affordable 4 pack, it’s one the cheapest options out there to get the whole family to try out clicker training!
- Clear, Loud Click. Emits a firm, fairly loud click that can be heard easily, even outside.
- Includes Elastic Wrist Wrap. Comes with an elastic wrap that can be worn as a bracelet for easy handling.
- Rounded Design. The smooth, rounded design allows this clicker to fit comfortably in the palm of your hand.
People love how affordable and easy this clicker was, and many especially appreciated the bracelet bands that were included.
Some find that the click is far too loud for their liking. It also required a fair amount of pressure to emit a click – nothing to give an average adult trouble, but probably not best for the mobility-impaired.
Our Take: This is a perfectly decent clicker, and the fact that it comes in a multi-pack is nice if you end up losing one. I didn’t find this clicker as comfortable to use as the Karen Pryor or the Clik Ring, but it’s made from solid materials and is reasonably priced. Not a bad first clicker to try!
5. Care of Animals Multi-Clicker
About: The Care of Animals (COA) Multi-Clicker has a patented volume control option, allowing you to adjust the loudness of the click depending on your dog’s sensitivities.
This also allows you to increase the volume once your dog has gotten accustomed to the clicker and isn’t as frightened by it.
- Adjustable Volume. Features three clicker volume levels for a soft, normal, and loud setting.
- Elastic Strap. Includes an elastic wrist strap for easy holding.
- Makes it Easy to Train Multiple Animals. Volume adjustment allows you to train with fearful or sensitive dogs, as well as more confident dogs, without needing separate tools.
Owners loved the variation, noting that the loud setting was best suited for outdoors, while the 2nd level is a fairly “normal” clicker sound, and the 1st level is a soft and gentle sound.
At least one owner found that only two of the volume levels worked, and they sounded virtually the same. Some also felt that the clicker was bulky and felt cheap.
Our Take: There is some variation between the clicks, but not a ton. I agree with some other users – the clicker’s plastic feels cheap, and the device is pretty bulky compared to other clickers. The elastic strap also is quite cheap and not as comfortable as the strap included with other clickers.
6. Clik Stik
About: The Clik Stik is a retractable target stick with a built-in clicker on the handle!
Target sticks are used to teach your dog to target (having your dog touch his nose to the ball), which can be built upon for agility training, heeling, and more. The built-in clicker means you only need one device, rather than juggling a target stick and clicker device at the same time.
While the Click Stik is probably best for intermediate and experienced trainers, it’s definitely a great tool for building more complex behaviors and tricks.
- 2-in-1 Training. This tool features a target stick and clicker in one device.
- Great for Advanced Training. The Clik Stick is ideal for agility training as well as building more advanced tricks and behaviors.
The Clik Stik is super handy for any owners who are also working on agility training, as it works well as an all-in-one tool.
Not as practical for day-to-day use or on walks due to its large size.
Our Take: I had fun with this clicker, but ultimately it’s the one I use the least amount of time since we don’t do much with agility training right now.
How to Start Clicker Training
When you start clicker training, your first step will simply be to build your dog’s association between the clicker and treats.
When he hears a click, he gets a treat! To start out, you’ll simply click and then treat your dog 10-20 times so build the connection.
After that, the sky is the limit!
Here’s what building that clicker association looks like IRL from Kikopup:
How to Use a Clicker for Trick Training
There are a number of ways you can use a clicker when training your dog. These include:
- Shaping. Shaping is the practice of teaching your dog how to complete more complicated sets of behaviors by rewarding each smaller step individually.
- Capturing. Capturing is the more passive practice of rewarding good behaviors when you see them. If your dog is lying quietly on his bed instead of begging at your feet while you eat, click and reward!
- Luring. Luring is when you use a treat to physically move your dog into the desire position (for example, moving a treat from in front of your dog’s nose to the ground in order to get a lie down movement). Once your dog has been lured into the correct position, you can click and treat!
Clicker training is also a powerful tool for counter-conditioning. This is why clickers are often used for training leash reactive dogs. You can use a clicker to click and reward a dog for simply showing calm behavior in the vicinity of another dog.
You Don’t Have to Use Just Treats
While treats work best for most dogs, if your pup loves playing, a quick round of tug-of-war or a toss of the tennis ball can make for a great reward too! Whatever your dog loves, you can use as a reward.
What’s your favorite kind of clicker to use with your dog? How do you use clickers in your training? Let us know in the comments!
Oh, and we have an infographic version below of what we’ve covered in this article. Make sure to share it on Pinterest!