Clicker training – what and how?

Clicker training is getting more and more popular among pet trainers and pet owners. Do you know what it consists of?

WHAT IS CLICKER TRAINING

Clicker training is “an animal training method based on behavioural psychology that relies on marking desirable behaviour and rewarding it”.

The training is based on psychology 101: Animals, or humans, tend to do, and repeat, behaviors that have a positive outcome. In clicker training, the “click” works as a communication tool and basically means “Yes, what you are doing is right”, and following each of these good actions comes a very tasty treat.

A clicker generates the “click”, but any distinctive and noticeable noise could do the trick. Instead of a noise, some people even prefer to use short words like “YES” or “GOOD”. Sharp noises such as a “click” are however known to work quicker and better than words, simply because they are more noticeable in a busy everyday environment (this is especially true for people who tend to talk a lot to their pets!)

HOW

The first thing you need to teach to your pet when starting clicker training is the actual concept that after each click comes something very tasty and good. So, at first, just click and then reward your pet, without asking him anything. Soon enough, he will start expecting a treat after each click. This means he understands the link between the click and the treat. Now, you need to teach him the link between a good action and a click. Ask him things he already knows such as “sit” or “down”, and click when he performs this action, and then reward him. After a couple of repetitions, your dog will learn that a click means he did something great and that a reward will soon be given to him. He basically now understands the principle of clicker training: a click is the marker for a good behaviour, which will be reinforced by something very rewarding.

Now, you can teach your pet a new trick or behavior. There are several ways you can go: You either wait for your pet to do the behavior which you can catch by a click or you lure him into the correct behavior, step by step. The timing of the click is very important! Remember that the clicker marks the behaviour, so whatever you are clicking is what your dog is learning as being “good”. A treat must always follow the click in the couple of seconds following the behaviour.

For instance, if you are teaching your dog to stop jumping on you when he is excited, then you should click whenever his four paws are touching the ground when you pet him. At first, this might only happen between two jumps, but quickly, your dog will learn that he is rewarded when his four feet stays on the floor, and jumping will no longer be the behaviour he resumes to when he wants to be petted.

When a behaviour is learned in a certain context, it is important to increase the level of difficulty gradually, for instance by asking a more difficult task or by working with a more distracting environment.

Here’s a website with useful information on clicker training: http://www.clickertraining.com/whatis
And here is a video that gives a quick and informative overview on clicker training:

You doubt that clicker training would work with your pet? Well it is working just fine for

Dogs:

Cats:
http://youtu.be/7P_XgJpUTis

Horses:
http://youtu.be/q1x1n6fY9qs

Rabbits:

And even fishes:

It seems to be working with a lot of different animals..!
The best way to learn about clicker training at first is to go through an introduction class with a certified trainer. Ask around in your neighbourhood, chances are there is such a trainer that gives private or semi-private classes on clicker training.

 

Share