by Ron Rutherford
Anyone who has owned a dog in his life knows how difficult the training process can be. Whether you’re teaching your pup to sit, stand or shake, instilling new skills in her can take months.
Fortunately, utilizing clicker training can greatly streamline the process. It’s humane, effective and incredibly simple, making it easy to implement. If you’re unfamiliar with clicker training, here are a few ways it can benefit not only your life, but your dog’s as well.
Clicker training is a safe and humane way to teach your dog new tricks.
Unlike other training methods, clicker training relies on what is referred to as a marker. For the dog, it marks exactly both the desired behavior as well as it predicts a reward. Timed properly, it gives your dog the perfect clue about what he's just done right.
Once your dog figures out the idea, he'll be more than happy to offer requested tasks, as well as new behaviors, to see what is going to earn the click. Dogs pick up on the concept very quickly. If your dog is having difficulty with a new trick, you might want to step back and re-evaluate your timing, or whether you're asking too much too fast. More complex tasks need to be broken down into simple steps.
Clicker training is proven to be effective.
Countless studies, experiments and videos have come out over the years in support of clicker training and its effectiveness. Even though it isn’t universally practiced, people like Karen Pryor and Emma Parsons have found it to be useful in calming aggressive and nervous dogs.
Clicker training works well for training other animals as well, most notably whales and dolphins. In the case of large, seafaring animals such as these, it can be hard for humans to train them. But, with the advent of clicker training, trainers can now teach and reward certain animal behaviors regardless of their size or ability to swim.
Clicker training is simple to adopt and implement.
If you’re a first time dog owner, training can be incredibly overwhelming. Luckily, clicker training is accessible regardless of your experience with dogs or other animals. All you need is a clicker and a good sense of timing to make sure you’re rewarding the correct behavior.
There is a bit of a learning curve at first, but with some practice you can become proficient in no time. Just be mindful of when you’re clicking and why, so that your dog performs the task accurately and doesn’t become confused.
Where it Started
Although clicker training was pioneered by Marian Kruse and Keller Breland, the idea behind it is actually steeped in psychologist B.F. Skinner’s operant conditioning. At the time, Kruse and Breland were graduate students enrolled in one of Skinner’s classes where he was leading research on behavioral modifications.
After witnessing the effects that operant conditioning had on animals and humans, Kruse and Breland left graduate school and opened Animal Behavior Enterprises (ABE) where they used behavior modification to create the first free-flying bird shows, as well as other animal exhibits.
Since then, clickers have been introduced as a way to positively reinforce specific behaviors, and have helped over 140 different species, including bears, lions and chickens to learn new skills.
Try it Out
As you can see, clicker training is ripe with advantages. It’s not only humane, but also easily accessible for you and your dog, not to mention proven to be effective. Whether you’re trying to teach an old dog a new trick, or fix problem behaviors in your pup, clicker training is definitely the solution you’ve been looking for. So, try it out!
Ron Rutherford used clicker training while preparing his dog for CGC certification and found it to be incredibly successful. Since then, he’s been sharing his experience with his friends and urging them to start clicking. He also writes for wireless dog fence provider, Havahart Wireless.