What is Clicker Training?

Clicker Training is Operant Conditioning. It goes back to the work B.F. Skinner did. It’s Behavior 101; A behavior reinforced will be repeated. The clicker it self was a stumble upon. A last minute decision at the first conference Karen Pryor gave regarding this subject. You can read all about it in her book “Don’t Shoot the Dog” .

I had my doubts at first. It was the dogs themselves that sold me. I saw so called un-trainable dogs (the highly reactive types) turning into well behaved pets, and it happened quickly. It was like they “heard” for the fist time what we wanted. We were getting through to their minds instead of fighting with their bodies. And if this was working with them you can imagine how it works with a cooperative dog.

The point being instead of training by pushing, pulling and using physical corrections you can Teach your dog (or anyone) what you want by applying Operant Conditioning. So, this is how it works; You see a behavior you like, you click, you reward, student likes the reward and wants more so they figure out how to make you click by repeating the behavior. You anticipate the behavior and “say the word” (cue/command) anticipating the click/reward the student does the behavior. Note you are NOT asking or telling YET you are labeling the behavior. Your student (dog) will hear the sound (the word) and start to anticipate the behavior that goes with it. Now for the behaviors you Do not want. For instance jumping, this one is simple, gravity is on your side, they will hit the floor many times. Click every time they hit the floor. I guarantee you they will stop and probably sit within a few clicks. For barking click the breaths in between barks. For running click every stop. They may go right back to the behavior in fact most likely they will (old patterns). You just go back to clicking and rewarding (new patterns). It’s a process, the good news is, it gets easier and much faster than you may think the behavior either goes away or reduces to a point you’re ok with.

A couple questions may come up here like rewards, and do I click forever. Rewards are what ever the student really, really, really wants not what you think they should want. I make my students work for a living, every piece of kibble, every toy, every privilege. Food is the easiest, it’s clear to the dog and to you what’s a stake. I can’t state strongly enough if they are not tring to make you click to get it, then it’s you who thinks it’s a reward not your dog. And no you do not click forever in fact if you over click you will just get a dog who begs. This is an art as well as a science. Learn to click more when your student is having trouble and less as your student “gets it”. Check out youtube and watch others clicking then Do It! And keep doing it ask others who click to help you, this is very counter intuitve to humans but extreamly clear to the anmals.

My sincere hope is that this is helpful to you and your dog, that it will bring you to a place of greater understanding regarding your pets ability to learn by problem solving. Thank you for your time and interest in reading this.

Stephanie Delaney
The Everyday Dog Positive Training


3 thoughts on “What is Clicker Training?

  1. Hi; Thank you for you comment on Clicker Training; I agree every dog is different and teaching needs to be adjusted to the student. Clicker Training is Operant Conditioning. You may use whatever marker works for your dog. For animals that are deaf I have seen people use a pen light. The Click is NOT to get the dogs attention It Marks the behavior you want. Much like taking a picture. It gives your dog (or any other animal) Information. The goal is to teach and once taught you should not be clicking over and over for them same behavior. It helps to get away from bait and lure. It makes your dog Think. The dogs job is to figure out how to make you click. Of course I also use body language, tone, regular collars, harnesses, short and long lines along with bait and lure to set up a behavior, again much like a photographer would set up a picture. But once the dog starts to “get it” and understands that a particular movement will cause me to click/treat they very quickly start dong it over and over that’s when I stop clicking every time. This will increase the behavior. Like a slot machine the dog will try harder to get the click. This is when the word (cue/command) is added to the picture. You can also “capture” good behavior. Dogs sit, lay down, walk with us, and come to us a dozen times everyday, why not take a picture of it. The Marker (clicker or other) is extremely specific information for the animal. I always say food is motivation, praise is inspiration the marker is Information. I hope this is taken in the spirit it is given. I have heard a lot of objections to clicker training and I myself was skeptical at first but the more you learn, use it and see the results the more you will come to enjoy adding it to you training.
    The Everyday Dog Positive Training
    Stephanie Delaney


  2. Pingback: Cat Training using a Clicker - Cat Training - Cat Behavior

  3. Clicker training is Operant Conditioning. We use a plastic clicker to Mark the behaviors we like. The Clicker itself is was an after thought, Karen Pryor was giving a seminar on Operant Conditioning to dog professionals and wanted to use something other than a whistle (used for dolphins) so she sent her assistant out to pick up something that made a sharp sound, they came back with a toy froggy clicker. Since that time we have been called Clicker Trainers. We could have easily been called whistle trainers if Karen had used the whistle. For more information; Goggle clickertraining.com
    Stephanie Delaney
    The Everyday Dog Positive Training


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