Target and Clicker Training for Dogs

Many trainers recommend target and clicker training to dog owners, and these two techniques work well together. Whether you’re looking to train a new puppy or just looking to teach an old dog a few new tricks, taking the time to learn the best approaches for training your dog can save you a lot of time and headaches. Proper training and socialization are important for your dog’s basic needs, and it’s vital that you give your beloved pet a foundation of fundamental training.  While this may seem overwhelming, especially if you’ve never owned a dog before, there are plenty of resources to help.  At Landheim, we offer great training courses including target and clicker training, and we can help you create a great foundation of training for your dog.     

Target Training

Target training, sometimes referred to as touch cue training, is a great foundation for teaching your dog many behaviors, from walking nicely on leash to coming when called. The first step is to teach your dog to target your hand. To accomplish this, it’s best to begin with an easy set up for your dog to figure out.  For example, hold a treat in a closed fist behind your back and use your opposite hand out sideways with your palm open and fingers flat.  Your open palm is your dog’s target.  If you hold this target hand toward your dog, many dogs will instinctively sniff it, and once you feel the contact of their nose on your hand, reward them with the treat from your other hand.  By beginning with your hand close to the dog’s nose, you make it easy for the dog to figure out the desired behavior. Once your dog masters the concept of touching your hand, you can increase the cue criteria by moving your hand further away or making your dog turn around to touch your hand.  Now your dog is able to figure out what you want and successfully touch your hand consistently.

Clicker Training

Clicker training is another positive reinforcement method often used in dog training. A clicker is a small mechanical noise making device. Sometimes referred to as a marker, a clicker “marks” the exact moment your dog completes a desired behavior or action. The noise, then, becomes associated with the behavior you’d like your dog to repeat. For example, if you’re training your dog to sit, you’d click the clicker at the exact moment your dog’s behind hit the ground. This marking of the precise behavior is key, so your dog knows exactly what behavior was “correct”; your dog may not know that laying with his stomach on the ground is what you want when you tell him to “lie down” if you then give him a treat as he gets up from the ground. The click signifies the moment he accomplished the goal.  The click is designed to mark the desired behavior, but this method wouldn’t work without a reward following right afterward. Give the command, your dog obeys, you click at the precise moment, and then you reward your dog. This method is a simple and effective way to positively reinforce the behaviors you want to see and train your dog to know what he or she is doing right!  The click itself does not have to be made by a device, by the way. Some people use verbal marks, like “Good” or “Yes”, or even make noises like tongue-clucks or whistles. Hearing-impaired dogs may benefit from a gentle tap on the shoulder upon completion of the desired behavior. 

Landheim Dog Training & Boarding In Dyer, Indiana, Can Help! 

Both target and clicker training methods can be effective. If you’d like to learn more about training your dog, or you’d like to sign your dog up for one of our basic training or advanced obedience courses, contact us at (219) 365-8897  or

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