Our Pit Bull is Afraid of the Clicker

by Jill
(Kansas)

I have seen and heard a lot lately about clicker training. Since getting Gunner we've seen that he is eager to please and learn new things, but he gets confused and doesn't always understand what we want so he'll just start doing every trick he knows all at once. So I thought clicker training would be a good idea to try.


Well... to put it mildly, Gunner is terribly afraid of the clicker. The first time he heard it he immediately tucked his tail between his legs, sulked and refused to take the treat. We tried a few different times with the same result and then gave it a rest. Meanwhile, he stopped accepting treats even without the clicker.

Then we tried it again a little bit later and this time he ran and hid. We had to to coax him back out and play with him and cuddle him for awhile to get him to stop acting afraid and return to his normal cheerful self.

We're confused as to why he would be so afraid of a little clicker, especially since it comes with a treat. We did finally get him to eat a treat without the clicker but it took a lot of convincing which is strange. We don't want him to be afraid of treats! So for now, we're putting the clicker away indefinitely unless we can figure out how to get him to respond to it positively.

I'd appreciate any thoughts you have on this.

Gale's reply:

Hi Jill:

Some dogs don't like the sound of the click--either because of a previous unpleasant association or because they are so sound sensitive that it hurts their ears. You can muffle the sound by keeping the clicker in your pocket or wrapping it in a piece of cloth and sometimes that's all it takes.

Also, Karen Pryor offers a clicker on her website that is designed for sound sensitive dogs.

Ultimately, you don't have to use a clicker to use clicker training principles. For most of us humans, it's easier to get the timing down and stay consistent with the sound by using the clicker--but you can use a word or short phrase in place of the clicker.

For example, you could just say "Yes!!" or "Right!" to mark behavior. The key is to say it with a certain pitch or inflection that your dog can distinguish from times when you might use the word in normal conversation. To avoid confusion, some people use a made-up word that they only use in training sessions.

With Gunner being so eager to please, I'm sure you'll have great results with or without the clicker. Good luck!

For more information on obedience training, visit our Pit Bull Training page.

For help with behavioral problems, check out our Dog Behavior Training page.

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