The Background And The Use Of Clicker Training For DogsBy
Presently, and throughout the 1990s a phenomena swept through the dog-lover’s community. It was called “Clicker Training,” and was implemented to teach dogs (along with horses and cats) that certain behaviors would be awarded, while others were not. Ms. Karen Pryor, a former dolphin trainer and author, along with a team of “Operant Trainers” started giving presentations at dog shows. They displayed how the small plastic device (about half the size of a bottle-opener) could be used to train dogs to do a number of “tricks,” in just a few days; tricks that would’ve taken months or even years to learn before.
The idea of using an acoustic sound or “click” to stimulate desired behaviors is called “operant conditioning” and was first used with dolphins and whales as early as the 1930s. This idea evolved and was formulated for other types of animals. These animals, like their dolphin predecessors, were “conditioned” to perform desired behaviors or actions.
Clicker Training is entirely based on a system of positive reinforcement with no punishment for undesired behavior. The clicker is clicked to let the dog know that he did something (i.e. sat, didn’t chew or jumped over a box, etc.) right. The system is designed to shape behavior by allowing the animal to do something for which he will then be rewarded with a click and a treat. It is NOT designed (as old training methods were) for the dog owner to physically manipulate the animal to sit, for example. Modern animal behaviorists find that animals learn more by themselves than when someone “shows” them how they should react in a situation.
If this idea is still hard to grasp, think about dolphins; or better yet, killer whales. There is no way that a trainer is going to physically manipulate a whale to jump out of the water. However, whales jump out of the water (at least partially) without conditioning. When these same whales jump out of the water, hear the “click” (or some associated sound), and then receive a treat, they quickly associate jumping out of the water as a positive behavior. Once that connection is made, trainers gradually increase what it takes (a higher jump) for the whale to get a click and a treat. It’s the same idea for a dog. The trainer waits for the dog to sit, quickly clicks, and gives the dog a treat. Puppies have been shown to learn as fast as within one click.
It’s important when using Clicker Training that the clicker is used immediately following the desired behavior. If the trainer or owner waits even a second, then the training could take a lot longer. Or worse yet, the dog may not associate the click and treat with something he did right. The clicker allows you to use something besides your voice to control your pet’s behaviors. It provides an external stimulus outside your body and provides a sound that is always the same, hence, always precise. It might be considered to be like a small remote control.
Today, Clicker Training is spreading like wildfire across many states and countries. Ms. Karen Pryor notes that in the early 1990s there were no Clicker Trainers. Just the idea existed. But now that people are seeing the amazing results, there are people budding up everywhere buying the manuals and using the device to train their dogs. Success statistics vary, but they lay somewhere between 90% and 100% percent effective. The higher statistics are a result of the dog having only one trainer who follows the guidelines exactly. When used precisely, it’s seemingly a flawless method of pet training.