© Stacy Braslau-Schneck, CPDT
“Anybody can train a dog to be a delightful companion and member of society, especially with clicker training” — Dani Weinberg
Clicker Training is an exciting way of communicating with and training animals. While it’s been used for years with marine mammals, research animals, and a variety of commercial projects, only recently has it begun taking the dog world by storm.
Clicker Training is using a distinct marker signal to precisely capture the behavior the trainer desires, and promise the animal that a worthwhile reward will follow. Simply put, the trainer uses a metal-and-plastic clicker to mark a behavior, and then gives the dog a reward. This motivates the dog to repeat the performance, while giving the information about what action precisely won the reward. Clicker Training consciously follows the rules of Operant Conditioning. Operant conditioning is “Nature’s way of allowing us to organize our behavior in such a way that we receive reinforcement and avoid punishment,” as Victoria Farrington, editor of the Clicker Journal puts it. Positive Reinforcement is used to strengthen desired behaviors. Clicker training also uses the idea of breaking end-goals down into tiny, achievable steps to guarantee that trainer and dog are successful.
Clicker Training is easy to learn, and it is a powerful animal training tool. You don’t need special skills or strength. Perhaps best of all, the animals love it. It’s clear to them what they’re doing right, and they get a chance to earn rewards food treats, favorite toys, attention and praise through their own actions. With Clicker Training, you don’t need choke chains or pinch collars. You work with your dog. All you need is a clicker (provided in private lessons) and something your dog likes. In class we usually use high-value food, but we encourage students to use their dog’s regular food rations at home as well as using other forms of “life rewards”. We fade out food as a lure so you don’t end up with a dog who “only works when I have food”.
All of Stacy’s Wag’N’Train appointments and workshops introduce Clicker Training to our students. The clicker is used to teach new behaviors. Once a new behavior is learned, the clicker is no longer needed – until you’re ready to teach the next fun thing!
Unlike some methods that some trainers use, Clicker Training is not just some method developed by charismatic individuals who don’t understand enough about dog behavior and their own skills to explain what they are doing in terms commonly understood by behaviorists and scientists. Clicker Training is based on science, and is easily learned by new people. You can invest your training with as much love, affection, praise and games as you can come up with – but you don’t need any magical “energy levels” to connect with your dog and improve his behavior.
Can’t make it to a Wag’N’Train lesson? Get Started on your own!
To learn more about Clicker Training, follow these links:
Click here for a “Getting Started” Clicker Training Kit – includes clicker and easy-to-follow booklet for getting you on your way, with dogs, cats, birds and horses!
Melissa Alexander’s ClickerSolutions page will answer all of your questions!
The Whole Dog Journal – great training articles, as well as holistic dog care.
For other people’s reviews and examples of clicker training, see also Clicker Training Tips, “Ask the Clicker Trainer: What you click is what you get” article by Jackie Krieger and Cacky Vincent and “Click, Treat, Learn” by Norma Bennett Woolf from the Dog Owner’s Guide (please ignore the book recommendations listed on the bottom of the Dog Owner’s Guide page – not all are compatible with Clicker Training. For excellent book suggestions, see our list of Recommended Books and Supplies).
See some videos of basic dog training with the clicker (mostly using luring) at Clicker Train
See how clicker training (operant conditioning) works on The Virtual Bird
More links are found on the Wag’N’Train Resources Pages.
To learn more about Operant Conditioning and the theory behind Clicker Training, visit Stacy’s other award-winning page, An Animal Trainer’s Guide to Operant and Classical Conditioning.
To read about how Clicker Training is used in movies and TV, for obedience competitions, for service dogs for the disabled, and for pet owners around the world, click here.
All material copyright Stacy Braslau-Schneck. Reprints for non-commercial use, and with the author’s permission only.
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