Clicker Potty Training

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Clicker training is a training method that has been around for ages. 

If you’ve taken a psychology class in school, you’ve probably heard about the study of Pavlov’s dog, where he trained his pooch to salivate whenever he rang a bell. He did this by ringing the bell whenever the pup was presented with food, which made him drool.

Clicker training uses the exact same scientific principle & it’s a great way to housebreak your pup.

However, getting started with this process can be very confusing. So, we’ve created a helpful guide to help you understand clicker potty training a little better. 

What Is Clicker Training?

Clicker training

So, what exactly is this method of training? Just like the name suggests, clicker training exposure is when you use a handheld clicker after your dog performs the desired action.

So, when your pup performs the correct behavior on cue (in this case – peeing), you should give them a click & a reward. 

Clicking is a fantastic way for your dog to understand that they are performing the correct behavior. The click shows your dog that a food reward is on the way. 

The best comparison of a clicker is to our words of praise. If you are teaching your pooch to sit, whenever he does that key behavior, you might say “Good Boy!” or “Good Job!” and give him a treat.

Those words of positive affirmation show your dog that a treat is coming, and eventually, he will receive pleasure just from your praise.

However, since we are almost always talking to our pooches in a doting voice, it can be hard for them to understand that praise is the only time when they will receive treats.

A click, if used to replace verbal praise, is a much more understandable & succinct noise; with clicker training, your puppy will immediately understand that a click only means a food reward.

How Can I Use Clicker Training?

Man training a guide dog

The most important aspects of clicker training are reward & timing. We can better understand this with the example of potty training. 

You need to begin the training by forming a positive association. 

So, click the clicker & immediately give your puppy a food treat. Repeat this process around 20 to 30 times over the span of a few days. Your dog will love this process because he is getting free treats!

At this point, your pup will understand that the clicker is an indicator of a reward to be coming. So, they will want to do anything they can to hear that click. You can use this in 2 ways for basic training. 

The first is to solidify good behavior. 

As your dog nears the correct potty spot, look for any pre-elimination behaviors that indicate that your dog is going to urinate. This could be leg lifting, circling, or intense sniffing. As they are peeing, click and give them training treats. 

This will teach your puppy that peeing outside will also get them the click, so they will be more likely to repeat this behavior. 

Another way to use clicker training is to lure a behavior. Use a verbal command like “Make” or “Go Potty” right before you think your pup is going to perform a toileting behavior. As soon as your puppy finishes urinating, use the clicker & give them a reward.

Eventually, they will begin to understand that peeing is an opportunity to get a click, which is an opportunity to get a treat. 

In about a week or two of consistent training, a majority of puppies will form a positive association between clicking & food. So, they will get those same feelings of euphoria & excitement from food with just a simple click. 

Eventually, you won’t even have to give them a reward; just the click will give them enough dopamine to perform the behavior around urination. 

You can also use clicking as a training method for other behavior modifications.

If your dog has some bad behaviors like jumping on guests, reward your puppy whenever he shows calm behavior. 

If you see that he is laying down when your guests arrive, click the clicker immediately & reward him with food. Eventually, he will understand that laying down is another way to get delicious treats.

Pros of Clicker Training

training a hunting dog with a clicker

There are many benefits to using clicker training as a cue for elimination behavior. 

  • Easy to understand
    • Clicker training is extremely easy for dogs, even young puppies, to understand. Since the click is such a short & easily recognizable sound, they will quickly understand that a click means feeding time!
    • Thanks to clicker training, it’s only a matter of time before your puppy understands the difference between cute behavior & unacceptable behavior. 
  • Extremely rewarding
    • You will find that your canine companion will be super enthusiastic about clicker training because of how rewarding it is. To them, all they have to do is perform the correct behavior, and they get a delicious training treat!
    • This makes crate training super easy & becomes a huge time saver when you are teaching your dog more complex tricks. Since the clicker association is already formed, this could be the basis for further training.
  • Makes training super fun
    • Clicker training is a lot like a game for our dogs. They might not even understand that it’s a training technique!
    • So, every time they are out on a potty break, just click the clicker & watch them get excited over a free piece of juicy chicken.
  • Builds a strong relationship
    • Clicker training is a very hands-on approach to housetraining that can strengthen the bond between pet & pet owners.
    • This is why tons of experienced dog owners & qualified trainers use clicker training for young pups. It makes your pooch look forward to the training sessions & spending time with you.
  • Removes issues with voice praise
    • There are a lot of limitations to just using vocal praise. The inflection could change, which may be confusing for younger dogs who don’t have tons of training experience.
    • Using a clicker sets your pup up for potty training success because they will easily understand whether the behavior they performed was correct or not.

Cons of Clicker Training

dog obedience training with clicker
  • Hard to implement for dogs who aren’t food motivated
    • Not all dogs are motivated by yummy treats. Other dogs prefer pets, playtime, or words of affirmation.
    • The best way to understand your dog’s motivator is to keep a daily record of their training process. Each day, switch out the motivator that you use & record it. This detailed record should let you know which motivator was the most effective.
    • Understanding your pup’s learning history can help you decide which motivator works best with clicker training.
  • Hard to Time
    • For new pet owners, it can be a bit hard to time the click rights in relation to treats. You need to click immediately after the bathroom break & then give a treat right after. This will allow the positive association to form much more quickly.
  •  Switching to voice commands can reduce the effectivity
    • If you see your pup go potty outside for the first time, it’s natural to want to coo words of praise. However, if you do this at the same time as using the clicker, it can only distract your dog more & make it harder for a positive association to form. 
  • Can cause dependence on the clicker
    • If you use the clicker for every new trick, it may even be impossible to teach your pup a new behavior without the clicker.
    • Therefore, you should record your pup’s training & see if you are implementing a variety of techniques. Relying on clicker training too much could become your crutch as a trainer.
  • Overeager clicker trainer
    • Overeager trainers are prone to overclicking & rewarding their pup for every small action. If you are using clicker training for potty training, then only click it after a successful elimination opportunity.
    • Don’t click it when your dog is about to urinate or he almost urinates. If you reward your pooch for these half successes, it could take much longer for the positive association to form.

Commonly Asked Questions

What Are Some Common Potty Training Mistakes?

Concept of positive reinforcement dog training using a clicker
  • Don’t click if they don’t urinate at the correct spot. If it looks like your pup doesn’t want to pee, wait 5-10 minutes & then go back to the potty spot to retry the whole process.
  • Never click before the desired behavior.
  • Monitor water intake to ensure that you give them ample opportunities for elimination. You can also make an elimination schedule, based on your pup’s feeding schedule. This can help you plan out your day better. Also, consider the weather conditions while you are making this routine.
  • Don’t be impatient. Potty training is a difficult process for your pup; although clicker training can help make it easier, you should still expect frequent accidents in the house. The most important thing to remember is to keep lots of patience & make sure you have an easy-to-clean floor surface!

When Should I Stop Clicking?

Ideally, you shouldn’t have to use the clicker every time you want your pup to pee outside. After a few months, your dog will be used to going potty outdoors, & the thought of going inside will be totally foreign to him! 

Once he has a good grasp of potty training, try reducing the clicking & see if he still displays that behavior.

What Are Some Alternatives for a Clicker?

ring the bell

There are tons of alternatives on the market for a clicker. Although good-quality clickers are typically inexpensive & easy to find, you might not want to spend unnecessary money on something you might already have lying around the house.

In this case, you can easily use a little bell,an empty flashlight, or tap a metal object with a spoon. Whatever makes a sharp & short noise will usually work for your pup.

If you don’t want to lug around any training supplies, you may also click your tongue or make a succinct high-pitched noise yourself. 

Conclusion

Clicker training is an invaluable tool for trainers & owners alike. By using clicker training, you can speed up your pooch’s potty training process, which can give him house freedom much quicker.

Clicker training is a no-frills method of forming a positive association, which makes housebreaking young pups so much easier. Just be careful that you don’t overclick & ensure that you time the clicks right with the reward.

If you found this article interesting, please share it with friends. If you have any questions, leave them down below.

As always, thanks for reading!

Meet our writer

Anoushka’s love for animals began with taking care of the cows & chickens on her family farm. As she grew older, this love transformed into a love for dogs. She volunteers in a dog shelter, so she is well-versed in the care and comfort of all breeds of dogs.

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