Clicker training is a training method that uses behavioral psychology for rewarding desirable behavior. A mechanical device called the “clicker” will make a click sound to tell the animal when they do something right. The clicker method has been proven a humane, safe, and effective way to teach animals mental and physical skills.
Why Is It Effective?
Both animals and people have the ability to associate an object, person, place, or action with a specific consequence. The more frequently you pair the action and the consequence, the stronger the association will become. This technique is known as classical conditioning.
The clicker initially uses classical conditioning, but it eventually becomes operant conditioning, where an animal will perform certain behaviors specifically to bring about a positive consequence. This causes the animal to purposefully have good behavior because they expect a pleasurable reward.
Why Use It?
The clicker is more effective than other methods of animal training because the animal knows exactly why they are receiving a reward. Without the sound, the animal may not connect the action with the reward. Worse yet, it may become confused and associate the reward with a different, unwanted action.
Why the Clicking Sound?
Clicking is better than using a spoken word because it is distinctively recognizable by animals. If you use a specific word, the animal may get confused with other words. Words can also be expressed with different emotions and pitches each time. A click will make the same sound at the same pitch.
How Does it Work?
As a trainer, you use the clicker the moment the animal shows desirable behavior. For example, click immediately when the dog sits. To reinforce the good behavior, provide a reward like a toy or a piece of food. This allows the animal to associate the clicking sound with the reward it enjoys.
Why Not Punishments?
Both pleasant and unpleasant consequences can be associated with a specific behavior. So why shouldn’t owners use punishments for unwanted behaviors? Research has proven that punishment may reduce the frequency of a specific action, but it often produces another unwanted action. It is often difficult to control and predict the results of punishments.
For an animal, punishment is often a random and meaningless event. Therefore it is less effective than using a clicker for rewarding positive behavior. Owners also have a much more rewarding relationship with their pet when they focus on the positive instead of the negative.