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Ask a Trainer: Fear of the Clicker

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Q: We just adopted a rescue dog that is two years old and weighs about 10 pounds. She's deathly afraid of the clicker, even when it's muffled! She runs and hides, although we use chicken for her reward. Is there a way to de-sensitive her to the clicker?

A: The clicker is simply a marker—a distinctive sound that marks a specific behavior that you would like to see repeated. Since your dog is afraid of the clicker (and fear is not rational), it would be best to move to a different marker. You need the marker to be a neutral stimulus; starting out with it as an aversive can take a very long time to change the association. Almost anything can be used as a marker, as long as it is something your dog doesn't hear all the time. Here are a few suggestions for a marker that would be more effective than a just a verbal response:

·  Ball-point retractable pen that makes a very soft click

·  Mouth click (most people make this sound by clicking their tongues)

·  A clicker app (available for most phones). The volume of the click can be adjusted with these apps.

Another question is “Are you using a box clicker or an i-Click?” Box clickers are often louder and sound more metallic than i-Clicks. You may want to try that version of the clicker. Hopefully you can find a marker that is a little quieter than the clicker your dog fears, but is still a distinctive sound!


Happy Training!

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