Clicker – or marker training is a method of animal training based on the science of operant conditioning. No other training model works as well or offers the emotional and mental satisfaction for animal and trainer than clicker (marker) training does.
Over the past 27 years, trainers of animals from tiny to huge have embraced the principles of clicker training. It is now widely used in zoos, aquariums, barns, and animal shelters to teach many different species how to successfully interact with their human keepers.
The clicker that trainers use today is a small handheld plastic “cricket” that evolved from a toy noisemaker, but anything that makes a clean, unique and audible sound will work as a marker. For deaf animals, or for fish, a flashlight can serve as a visual marker.
Clicker training works with household pets like fish, mice, bunnies, guinea pigs, hamsters, and birds, as well as dogs and cats because it works without the use of force, coercion or pain.
Why Use Only Positive Training?
Science now acknowledges that animals have complex and deep emotions; they feel love and fear, joy, hurt, betrayal, and grief. Behaviour is the outcome of emotions – and so behaviour is always changing.
Punishment and pain are never the solution to behaviour problems. Choke chains, shock collars, prong collars, and punishment will certainly damage the relationship between you and your dog.
How do You Introduce Clicker Training?
The first thing a trainer does is pair the sound of the click with something the animal likes and will work to get – most commonly food treats, but sometimes a toy, affection, or a game (like tug or catch), until the animal understands that the sound of the click will always be followed by a reward.
The second thing a trainer does is click something the animal already does naturally and then immediately follow-up with a reward. It doesn’t take the animal very long to figure out that something he is doing is causing the trainer to click and deliver food.
The click then becomes a marker that tells the animal, in the instant of movement, what it has done that the trainer likes and will reward. This is very exciting for the animal – suddenly, he has an affect on his world; he can cause his trainer to give him a treat! One of the most rewarding parts of clicker training is seeing the little light go on when the animal “gets it!”
Training with a reward marker becomes a fun game – an avenue of communication between the animal and trainer. The clicker technique is so rewarding for both the animal and the trainer that it is rapidly becoming the training method of choice for animal loving trainers.It is a method of training that is committed to using techniques that cause your beloved pet no pain, fear, or discomfort.
Why Should You Train Your Dog Using a Click, rather than a word like OK?
- a click is universal
- it is quick, precise, and unemotional
- it is con-resistant
- it is not open to interpretation
- it is hands off
- clicking allows for 2-way communication
- it is incredibly successful and whatever is trained using a clicker endures
Why Should You Use Lots and Lots of Treats?
You work hard for your money, some of which you use to buy food you like; how long do you think you would continue to go to work if your boss stopped paying you? Your dog can’t go to a store and buy what he wants, but he’s willing to work pretty hard to get what he likes, just like you. So if you reward your dog often for behaviour you like, with treats he thinks are wonderful, you will soon find that your dog starts to offer the preferred behaviours more often.
We’ve learned so much about training in the past fifty years; training, these days, is so much more than “obedience.” If you and your dog can count on each other, lean on each other, and trust each other, you can ask and get any behaviour your dog is physically capable of. They are far more intelligent than we ever gave them credit for, and if – when – we give them a way to communicate with us, and we communicate clearly with them, the relationships we build are extraordinary.