Also known as marker training, many pet professionals regarded clicker training as a training philosophy more than a training method. There are several advantages of using a clicker for puppy obedience training. That’s why more and more owners and puppies are reaping the advantages. The truth is, not many other ways are capable of matching the cutting-edge precision clicker training offers. Puppy owners interested in this training philosophy may be eager to learn more about how clicker training started and how it can be used to train their dogs.
It all started over 70 years ago! When Marian Bailey and Keller Breland, two graduate students of famous behaviorist B.F Skinner, studied methods to train pigeons for the Navy during World War II. They then discovered the methods used were not successful for a simple fact, failing to provide animals with much-needed precision. Keller Breland was the first to employ a clicker to “bridge the time between the behavior and the delivery of the reinforcer,” as he explains in his own words.
Later, the same training methodology was used in the 1950′s to train large marine mammals. Although back in those days a whistle was used to train marine mammals, the principles were the same as those applied in clicker training. This training philosophy was further spread by Karen Pryor, owner of Sea Life Park with whom the Breland worked for a while. In 1984, Karen Pryor’s book “Don’t Shoot the Dog” skyrocketed in popularity grabbing the attention of many dog trainers drawn to the world of positive reinforcement and clicker training.
Understanding Clicker Training
The concept of “clicker training” gets from the noise produced by this small mechanical noisemaker upon compacted. So we use the clicking commotion to check practices that are then followed by reinforcement. Puppies who haven’t experienced clicker training, don’t understand what the clicking noise means at first, but they soon learn to associate the clicking sound with a reward. When the clicker begins accepting a meaning to the puppy it is known to have become a conditioned reinforcer, secondary reinforcer, or as Breland called it, “a bridge.”
Why use a clicker? Many dog owners asked why they not simply use words to bridge a behavior with a reward.
Better Precision and Reliability
While it’s true that the words “Good boy” or an enthusiastic “Yes!” can be also used to mark wanted practices and to bridge practices with rewards, the clicker offers much more accuracy and a neutral tone that is more reliable and quicker than the human voice. The clicker’s meaning ultimately remains always the same to a dog’s ears: it communicates a reward is on its ways courtesy of a performed behavior.
Because a clicker is based on positive reinforcement, dogs often respond to clicker training with enthusiasm and high motivation. Clicker-savvy dogs are often so eager to play the “clicker game”, they’ll spontaneously start offering behaviors the moment they acknowledge the clicker. Their eyes will brighten or light up, their tails will wag and their body will be ready to spring into movement.
Increase Your Dog’s Confidence
Clicker training can also be beneficial for dogs who need a boost in their confidence levels. Because clicker training dogs to interact with their environment, timid dogs that withdrawn will often open up and become bolder.
Replaceable by Verbal Marker
Some dog owners concerned about having to carry a clicker with them all the time. Best of all, they can rest assured that they won’t have to. Without a doubt, we mostly use clickers in the initial stages of learning. Then it can be replaced by a verbal marker once the behavior has been learned, explains puppy trainer Casey LoMonaco.
Guide to Clicker Training
The very initial or first step in clicker training consists of “loading” or “charging” the clicker. This is the step where puppies realize what the clicking sound means. It’s a good idea to start in a quiet room and using small, soft treats as rewards. The trainer should click the clicker and immediately give a treat and repeat the click/treat process several times in a row until the dog gives signs of making the association between click and treat. Generally, a puppy that turns his head and looks for rewards after hearing the clicking sound has started to make the association.
Once I have made the association, I will click the dog for engaging in desired behaviors. Timing is very important. The click must happen right when the behavior occurs, not a second prior, not a second after. As the saying goes “you get what you click for”. Once dog and dog owners get acquainted with the clicker, the sky is ultimately the limit to teaching new behaviors.
The Bottom Line
Despite what people assume, clicker training is not a new “fad”. As seen, this training philosophy has been in practice for many decades with great success. For many good reasons, clicker training is the way of choice for many trainers looking for precision, motivation, and enthusiastic responses. It’s not a coincidence after all, that many species, from dolphins and birds to exotic animals have been successfully trained in this amazing philosophy.