What Is Clicker Training?

What exactly is “clicker training” ? 

The clicker, which is a small, handheld, noisemaker, makes a distinctive sound that is used to mark behaviors that you would like to see repeated. In the beginning, it is associated with a reward, generally food (but not always).  So a “click” is followed rapidly by a treat (C/T). Once the behavior is learned and is “on cue” the clicker is faded away as are the treats. You won’t need to run around with a clicker and liver treats in your pocket forever.

One of the most important advantages of clicker training is that it is truly FUN!  It does not involve choke chains or any physical compulsion at all.  It is all positive and reward based and you are basically showing the dog that learning is fun and rewarding. And let’s face it, if it is rewarding and fun then we want to do it.

Rewards

Food is generally a “high value” reward for your dog, but praise and affection is used as well.  In fact, anything that your dog finds rewarding can be used. As a matter of fact, the “reward” can be quite individual and unusual. One of my favorite writers, Patricia McConnell has a fabulous post about  “reinforcement.” It is mind boggling what some people have used to reward their dogs – everything from sheep poop to chasing rabbits.

 Clicker training is a relatively new method of training and is not restricted to dogs. In fact, almost all animals used for TV and movies are trained this way, from sea lions to guinea pigs.

Chickens And Clickers

Two of B.F. Skinner’s students developed the method (Marian Kruse and Keller Breland)and it was used by Bob Bailey, who was the Navy’s first Director of Training. Bob Bailey’s story is a fascinating one, as he was involved in training a huge variety of animals, from gulls to cats, during his time with the Navy. The video above shows the process of clicker training a chicken. Unbelievable as it sounds, clicker training a chicken is a way for dog trainers to develop and polish their skills. Clicker training a chicken improves the speed and accuracy of a trainer. As an experienced clicker trainer, I didn’t think I would have much problem with my speed and accuracy. But boy can those birds move fast! Terry Ryan is one prominent trainer who holds chicken training camps.  

Dogs And Clickers

Clicker training dogs is very fast and you  quickly come to the point where you have a shared language for communicating with your dog. At this point, the clicker can be faded away. This sort of training can be used for any type of training, from basic obedience (sit, stay, come, down, etc.) to tricks.

There are many excellent websites where you can learn more, but here are a few of my favorites just to get you started.

Karen Pryor Clicker Training

Gary Wilkes’ Click N’ Treat

Melissa Alexander Clicker Solutions

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Top Three Dog Training Problems and Solutions

How To Train Your Dog Without A Trainer

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3 Responses to “What Is Clicker Training?”

  1. Sage 25. Aug, 2010 at 1:37 pm #

    Sage loves clicker training! Great information, especially about the chickens.

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    [...] of the students in my class will have taken classes with me previously, so they are pretty clicker savvy. Though it is quite possible to train without using the clicker, I emphasize the value of having a [...]

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