Clicker training is the scientifically sound method of training based on behavioral psychology that relies on marking a desirable behavior and rewarding it. Reinforced behaviors are more likely to reoccur.
Desirable behavior is marked by using a "clicker;" a mechanical device that makes a short, yet distinct, "click" sound. This “click” tells the animal the exact moment they have performed the desired behavior. A word is sometimes used in place of the clicker. This clear form of communication, combined with reinforcement (something desirable to the animal such as food, praise, or play), is an effective, safe, and humane way to teach any animal any behavior that it is physically and mentally capable of doing.
The benefits of positive reinforcement based training:
- Dogs learn that they are an active participant in the learning process and, therefore, develop a deep trust in their guardians. In addition, long term learning takes place.
- Above and beyond trained behaviors, dogs learn to make their own good decisions and develop self control.
- Pet guardians develop a new respect and appreciation for their dogs once this clear line of communication is established.
- It is FUN-there is nothing better than a dog wagging it’s tail while he/she learns a complex behavior. In the same vein, there is nothing like watching an owner, once frustrated with their dog, completely amazed at their dog’s brilliance!
Why is it Effective?
Prior to understanding why clicker training is effective, it is important to be familiar with the following terms.
Operant Conditioning: When an animal intentionally performs a behavior in order to bring about a desired consequence, as clicker trained animals do, they are learning in a way that researchers call “operant conditioning.”
Classical Conditioning: Animals may also associate an action, event, place, person, or object with a consequence, whether pleasant or unpleasant. The more a certain event or environment is paired with a particular consequence, the stronger the association. This type of learning is called “classical conditioning” and represents reflexive or automatic behavior, rather than intentional behavior.
While clicker training initially employs classical conditioning, it quickly becomes operant conditioning as soon as the animal intentionally repeats an action in order to earn a reward. Training through operant conditioning results in purposeful behavior, while training through classical conditioning results in habitual behavior.
The difference between an animal that behaves with purpose, rather than by habit, is vast. Clicker trained or operantly conditioned animals try to learn new behaviors. They remember behaviors even years later because they were aware of them as they learned them, rather than acquiring them without awareness. They develop confidence because they have control over the consequences of their actions. They are enthusiastic because they expect those consequences to be pleasurable.
How to Get Started
Charge the clicker. Your job is to make a positive association between the sound of the click and good things for your dog.
- Call your dog’s name.
- As soon as your dog turns to look at you click (mark the behavior) and then give your dog a treat (reinforce the behavior). They do not need to hold the behavior you are simply looking for them to look in your direction. We can work duration at a later date.
- Repeat this in sets of 10 repetitions 2 or 3 times a day until your dog is actively flipping his head when his name is called.
- Do this in a variety of places with a variety of distractions.
Now your dog is ready to start learning! Please review our training options and choose the best session for you. We look forward to working with you - High Paw!