Clicker training is a fun way of training your dog with positive reinforcement. It typically makes use of a device called a clicker that makes a sharp “click” noise to mark good behaviors, but a concise marker word such as “yes” is also common. By associating your mark with a treat or reward, clicker training creates a situation where there is immediate compensation for desirable action. With proper timing of your click or marker word you can create a very strong link between the behavior and the reward, often making training progress faster and making what you want to achieve clearer to your dog. It is especially valuable when training new skills.
Clicker training is used by more than just dog trainers. It is often used in research and in exotic animal work. In non-traditional settings the type of clicker used can be matched to best suit the situation. For example, dolphin trainers use a whistle to denote good behavior because the sound of a whistle travels better through water than a normal click or marker word. Clickers also do not have to be an auditory signal; any sensory stimulus (such as lights, smells, physical touch) is a candidate for being used in clicker training. Clicker training is often used in zoos to teach controlled movements between pens and improve safety during handling for health checks and other close human-animal interaction.
Karen Pryor is a well-known expert of clicker training. Her methods have been used by many and her website is a fantastic resource if you are looking for tips on how to start training with a clicker or on how to better improve your clicker techniques! Here she is demonstrating her abilities with an unlikely subject and a non-traditional clicker.
Clicker training can be used in close conjunction with other strategic training techniques such as shaping to create more complicated behaviors. Stay tuned until our next training blog when we discuss shaping and how it can be used to teach your dog everything you’ve ever wanted it to know!