What household items can be used as effective clickers?
Clickers are little boxes that you can press to make a clicking noise. They’re available in most pet stores (online ordering is also available) and often come in assorted colors and different sound levels. They usually cost around $3 or less.
Sometimes people make clickers from household items. Oftentimes, they’ll use Snapple bottles or retractable pens. (The bottle cap pops with the initial open, but a lower-sounding snap also occurs each time it is opened.) These are fine—but be sure the clicking noise they make is loud enough for them to hear. On the other hand, these items might work well for the nervous dog that is afraid of the clicker sound, because the Snapple bottle tends to be a little muffled.
Clicker training is an excellent way of marking the behavior when you want to teach the dog something new. The click is the praise, not the command or cue. The clicking sound is a promise of a reward that usually follows within seconds.
Every time you click, you give the dog a treat (or her toy). The dog hears “click” and knows the treat will be coming in seconds—and you must always treat. The combination of clicker and treat is a powerful training tool—and it’s really a contract between you and the dog that establishes trust and a bond.
Verbal markers, rather than a click, also work. The benefit of the clicker over a verbal marker is that the timing is better and that the click sound is processed by the part of the brain that deals with survival. That makes it easier for the dog to remember. I always switch to a verbal marker (like “Yes!”) when I stop using the clicker for a given behavior.