Noncoercive Clicker Training for Beginners

I taught Wil to make eye contact using clicker training.

I taught Wil to make eye contact using noncoercive clicker training

Clicker Training is a great way to teach your dog new skills and behaviors using totally non-coercive strategies.

In my book The 3 Essential Commands, I explain how I used clicker training to re-shape the gnarly attitude Wil had when I got him at age 3. Today he is a dog who enjoys learning and takes pride in his partnership with me.

You can use clickers to train your dog too. The benefits are many:

  • You will improve your focus on what your dog is doing that you want him to do.
  • If you make mistakes (your timing or failure to see the “tries” your dog makes, for  example) there is no harm done. You won’t have issued a reprimand or correction; you will have failed to treat your dog for guessing what you wanted him to do.
  • Clicker training builds an enthusiast attitude toward learning.
  • A trained dog is more confident. And he’s a lot more pleasant to have around!

Clicker Training Primer

Here is a succinct video demonstrating how to use a clicker to teach your dog a simple concept: “Watch me.”

I really like this clicker. It has a crisp click. It is ergonomically comfortable. And it is packaged in with a “cheat sheet” that is helpful for beginners.


Clicker Training is not a be-all end-all, but it is a no-stress, positive way to teach your dog new skills and behaviors. When employing this teaching strategy, you must laser-focus your attention on your dog's behavior. At first you are looking for the exact moment when you see the dog move toward the behavior you want to develop.

Using the video above as an example, you hear Donna click each time the dog looks her in the eye. If the dog were nosing her, walking around her to get to her treat hand, or doing any other behavior other than making direct eye contact, Donna would simply ignore the dog until he thought to look toward her face. As he caught on to the fact that the click and treat seemed to be connected with looking at her face, then she could raise the bar and click only when he looked at her eyes.

I taught Wil to make eye contact using clicker training. I knew that drawing his eyes to mine would be helpful in creating a partnership. It was one of a number of strategies I used to transform him from an angry, lonely dog into a stellar partner. You can learn more about clicker training and other relationship-building strategies in my book The 3 Essential Commands.