Clicker training is a fun way to train your dog, but before you get started there are some important points to learn and remember.
First off, understand that the clicker is only a communication device. The clicker is never used as praise, or as reinforcement. The only function of the clicker is as a marker, to help the dog understand that the behavior he just performed is what you are looking for.
Once a dog understands what the click means, that you are trying to teach him something, he will become what animal behaviorists term 'operant'. This means that he will offer behaviors to try to get the click. The clicker can be a breakthrough in communication if used correctly. What the clicker is NOT is an attention getter. If you choose to clicker train, your dog will quickly learn that the click means a treat. Some novice trainers will then click to get the dog to turn and look at them, or to come when called. This is a very wrong application of the clicker and will dilute its meaning for the dog. The click must always come immediately AFTER the desired behavior.
Many people new to dog training find the clicker cumbersome. They get frustrated fumbling with a clicker, leash, treats, and dog all at the same time. If you do not want to use a clicker you can say the work 'yes'. It's short, simple, and the dog will pick up on this also. The down side is that dogs are very used to our voices, and it's hard to make our voices always sound the same. They can hear the frustration, happiness, anger, etc. The clicker is non-judgmental. It always sounds the same, and trainers that have used it extensively believe that it is a better tool than our own voice. Before you give up, or tell yourself that you are not co-ordinated enough to clicker train, please remember all you are asking your dog to learn and do. Asking this of yourself, to put in this effort, will help your dog. You will be trying to click at the right time for the appropriate behavior. Therefore you will become a better trainer because a little more attention will be required.
Also, please be aware that the clicker is TEMPORARY. Once the dog learns the behavior you do not need to click for it. But, if you want to teach something new, you can get it out again and your dog will understand the process.
Karen Pryor, a great clicker trainer and one of the original trainers who brought clicker training to dogs, has a wonderful web-site that is a wealth of information on the clicker at www.clickertraining.com. I could spend pages writing about the clicker, but this site, and Karen, answers every question you could have.