What is Clicker Training?

Clicker training is based on the behavioral psychology concept of operant conditioning.  Without getting too technical, because this is not Psych 101, operant conditioning states that when you use consequences you can modify behavior and training. 

However clicker training doesn’t use punishment as consequences like older more traditional forms of dog training, but rather uses rewards to modify behavior and training.  There are of course, many benefits to using clicker training and positive reinforcement.

A Clicker is a Conditioned Reinforcer

A clicker, a small handheld device which makes a clicking noise when pressed, is a conditioned reinforcer.  Meaning that the specific sound a clicker makes marks a desired behavior.  You can pick them up at most pet stores for just a couple bucks

For example, you ask your dog to sit and he sits, you click and that signal marks the behavior.  Your reward so that he begins to make associations.  Your dog begins to relate the treat to the click and the click to performing the behavior you request.  

Why Clicker Training is Important

Why this is so important to learning.  While sit isn’t such a difficult behavior for dogs to learn many behaviors are.  Many behaviors take several steps to perform correctly and therefore it’s very important your dog knows when he’s performed all or part of the behavior correctly.  Now you might be asking, “Why can’t I just say ‘good dog?’”  

Our voices change inflection, we use different words, and we’re unable to speak as accurately as a simple click.  That being said, you will absolutely need to practice clicking to achieve the accuracy necessary for it to be useful. 

You certainly don’t want to click a split second later when your dog has decided to stand up again after the sit command because now you’ve just marked the standing up behavior – not what you were intending on teaching! 

Tomorrow I’ll post the benefits of Clicker Training. You can also read some more on Clicker Training For Dogs here.

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