Some of you have probably heard of clicker training. It has become a common practice for many trainers to use this simple yet effective tool. They are cheap and readily available in any pet store, but, many of it's users are using it incorrectly. You see, a clicker is a tool used to mark a behaviour that you like and want to see more of. However you first must teach the dog what the clicker means. This is a very simple process and can be achieved in a matter of a day or two in most cases just using meal time. Portion out your dogs meal, raw or kibble, they both do the job. Next, click the clicker and feed the dog immediately after. Click, feed, click, feed until the meal is done. Repeat at the next meal. You will soon see the dog looking toward the 'food hand' when it hears the clicker go off.
Now that your dog understands what the clicker means, do you even need it? Well the answer to this is maybe. Personally I do not clicker train every dog I train. Most learn just fine without it. However, if the owner is having a hard time with timing the marker (yes!), or if the dog is struggling to connect the mark to the behaviour then yes, clicker training will very likely help the process along.
So now that you have identified whether or not you need a clicker, how do you use it? The trick to effective training with or without a clicker is timing. Timing is literally make it or break it in training especially behaviour modification. The second your dog displays the behaviour you want, you hit that clicker and deliver the reward. For example, dog is learning to sit. The second that bum hits the floor you click and reward. That's it. I mean, that isn't it for the training itself but that is as simple as clicker training is. Done correctly it is extremely effective and can speed up the training process.
In short, not every dog or every owner needs to clicker train. It is after all, one more thing to carry on a walk. But for those that do, it is the closest you get to a magic wand. As always, if you are struggling with training or have behaviours that need corrected, please reach out to a professional.