A Brief Introduction to Clicker Training Your Puppy or Dog

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A Brief Introduction to Clicker Training Your Puppy or Dog

by Aidan Bindoff


This brief article is an introduction to Clicker Training for Puppies and Dogs. Clicker Training is an effective and pet-friendly method of dog training that anyone can learn and use straight away to teach tricks and solve common behavior problems.

What is a "Clicker"?

A Clicker is a small noise-maker which makes a clicking sound. The click itself is brief, clearly audible and consistent.

What is the point of using a Clicker?

If we wish to reward a dog for behavior that we want more of, we need to be able to say to the dog "Yes! That is exactly what I am rewarding!" For many behaviors, we can simply say "Yes!" or "Good!" and follow up with the reward (usually food)

The clicker, or verbal marker, is known as a "Bridging Stimulus" because it bridges the gap between behavior and reward.

If you are trying to teach your dog to push a button with his paw, for example, then you need to be able to reward that exact behavior. This is where the clicker comes in, you can click the clicker precisely as the paw hits the button - effectively saying "That is exactly what I want you to do" - then give the reward.

How Do Clicker Trainers Stop Unwanted Behavior?

Clicker Trainers have a bag of tricks based in the science of Operant Conditioning. However, they do not use force, fear, pain or scolding to train. That still leaves Negative Punishment, Extinction and training alternative behaviors.

When a clicker trainer comes across an unwanted behavior, they ask "What is reinforcing this behavior?" and "What would I like my dog to instead?" Then set about removing the reinforcers for the unwanted behaviour and training a preferred behavior.

Does it Really Work?

Clicker Training is nothing new, it's just taken a while to catch on. It is proven to work and has been used to train dogs in every field of endeavour, from Guide Dogs, to Police Dogs, to Obedience Champions. It has also been used to train thousands of species of animal, including wild animals in their natural environment.

If you try to punish a wild animal it will either run away or kill you. This leaves Clicker Training as one of the few effective alternatives. Tigers and Bears have been trained to offer a tail or paw and have blood taken. Dolphins have been trained in military surveillance in the open ocean. Dogs have been trained to make their disabled owner's beds - just a few examples of what clicker training can be used for.

Where Can I Learn More About Clicker Training?

Positive Petzine is a free resource for people training their own dogs.

Aidan Bindoff is Editor of Positive Petzine.

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