Quite simply clicker dog training is the most humane and effective way we know how to shape any new behavior in our dogs and extinguish any existing behavior problems.
Clicker dog training utilizes proven behavioral science methodology to clearly communicate and interact with our dogs. We now have a greater understanding of how animals (including our dogs!) think and learn - clicker training is the practical application of this knowledge in real life everyday situations.
Clicker dog training is a positive, reward based training method which relies on co-operation, consistency, repetition and positive reinforcement. Clicker training is free from any violence or harsh corrections. The best thing about clicker training are the results you and your dog will achieve - plus you'll have a heap of fun in the process.
The clicker training methods we now use on our dogs were first employed in the 60's to train marine mammal's (dolphins). These methods were then brought across into the dog training arena thanks to Karen Pryor, and really started to take off in the early 90's. The clicker training movement in the dog world has been picking up steam ever since and is now an unstoppable force - and for good reason...
Well no, the clicker doesn't actually train your dog - but it is an important tool in the clicker training process. Clicker training relies on our understanding of how dogs learn, dog psychology and the behavioral science principles of operant conditioning and classical conditioning. We know that when we combine these principles it is our best means of communicating with our dogs.
At the core of the clicker dog training principle is this proven belief - reinforced or rewarded behavior in a dog is more likely to be repeated, and behaviors that are not reinforced will become less likely to occur again.
This is how Karen Pryor puts it:
"In traditional training, animals learn what to do and what to avoid around people from the reactions of people. It's the same way animals learn what to do around other animals in the wild, from the reactions of other animals.
In OUR kind of training, animals learn how to find food, increase their skills, and discover new ways to have fun the same way they learn in nature-from exploring the world itself."
These are the brilliant communication tools of a Clicker Trainer:
What does all of this mean? Depending on which of these 5 consequences we provide, we are making the behavior occur more often or making it fade away.
A couple of quick real life examples of a dog learning through the consequences of their behavior (operant conditioning).
Classical conditioning is the pairing of two unrelated stimuli so that an association is formed between the two.
Think of it from your dog's perspective. When you put your jacket on your dog gets all excited because she associates this with going for walkies! In your dog's mind two unrelated things have become linked. In clicker dog training the sound of the clicker becomes associated with receiving a reward. When your dog hears the click she will expect a treat to come her way fast! - it is amazing how quickly dogs build this association between the "click" and a yummy treat.
NOTE: Don't worry if all this scientific theory sounds a bit confusing. The power and effectiveness of clicker training will become crystal clear as soon as you give it a go.
For a detailed explanation of Operant and Classical conditioning please visit this page Clicker Training Theory.
What all of this theory means is that a clicker trainers overwhelming focus is on marking and rewarding the desirable behavior of their dogs, rather than on the dogs undesirable behavior. Training sessions are motivational, full of praise and rewards and they are also free from any threat of violence or harsh punishment (unlike many other training methods). This clear emphasis on positive reinforcement gives dogs the freedom and confidence to think, learn and experiment throughout the training process. The dog's natural capabilities are encouraged and rewarded rather than being suppressed through the threat of violence or harsh corrections. From your dog's perspective they can solely concentrate on the challenge of learning and trying new things rather than worrying about the consequences of doing something wrong. Which scenario do you think is a better environment for a dog to learn and bond with their trainer?
The clicker itself is basically a construction tool used to build, shape and reinforce desired behavior. It's function is to clearly pinpoint the behavior we are looking for in our dogs (sit, down etc.) precisely when it takes place. It marks this event or behavior and provides instant positive feedback (which is what dogs need to learn!) to your dog. Clicker trained dogs quickly learn that the clicking sound is a good thing, that a reward is on its way and they strive to hear it's sweet sound. Some trainers call the clicker a "bridging stimulus" meaning that the click links up or connects the desired behavior to the reward (treat, praise etc.). The click also signifies to your dog that the behavior is finished, that their job is over.
Once you have the desired behavior (sit, down etc.) rock solid and reliable in all circumstances and situations you can gradually phase out the clicker and the reward for that behavior. Then you and your dog can move on to learning your next trick!
|1. Get the desired behavior to happen - use a lure, target stick, shape it or let occur naturally.|
|2. Mark the behavior the instant it happens - "click"|
|3. Reward/Reinforce the behavior - use tasty treats, praise, life rewards etc.|
|4. Generalize the behavior - add the so called three D's. Practice the behavior everywhere adding new challenges like increased duration, distance and distractions.|
|5. Cue the behavior - add a verbal and/or visual signal such as "sit" or "down" etc.|
|6. Gradually fade the clicker and treats.|
It didn't take me long to realise that clicker training had a lot going for it. I soon found that dogs really love the clicker training process and most importantly I could see the results were quick and very impressive. It's been a refreshing and unexpected change to see the sheer delight and enthusiasm all dogs have show towards our clicker training sessions. Take Macy for example, she sits in front of me shaking, almost bursting with excitement when I produce the clicker. After she has thought her way through the session she is always exhausted - it takes a lot out of dogs mentally.
This is the clicker training resource I used when I first taught Macy - Clickertraining Academy
For further reading, online videos and clicker training supplies there is only one place to go. Karen Pryor is the leading authority on Clicker Training For Dogs and she has a great website - www.clickertraining.com
Another excellent and highly recommended product to get your clicker training experience off to a great start:
Some Other Good Clicker Dog Training Articles:
Please consult the services of a Professional Dog Trainer, Behaviorist or Veterinarian before implementing any of the advice contained on this site.