What is Clicker Training – and Why it Works

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clicker training

Clicker training is a method used to train animals of any kind to repeat wanted behaviors by marking and reinforcing them. Clicker training works especially well for training dogs, as they quickly learn if they repeat a desired behavior, they will be rewarded. During clicker training, a mechanical device is used to emit a short, distinct “clicking” noise. If the click is made at the same time the animal performs the behavior, and then a reward is given, the animal quickly learns that by repeating the action that earned the click it will also earn him a reward. Clicker training is a safe and highly effective way to train your pet to do anything he is mentally and physically capable of doing.

Why Clicker Training Works

Clicker training works on two psychological principles: classical conditioning and operant conditioning. In the beginning stages of clicker training, animals learn through classical conditioning. Classical conditioning represents the automatic or reflexive behaviors performed by the animal. For instance, animals can associate any action with a consequence, whether good or bad. If the same consequence accompanies the action every single time, the association becomes stronger.

Clicker training quickly becomes operant conditioning. In operant conditioning, the animal realizes the consequences and intentionally repeats the action to bring about those consequences. This type of training results in desired, purposeful behavior and a well-trained pet without any negative repercussions.

How to Clicker Train your Pet

At the very moment your pet performs the behavior you want, press the clicker. For instance, if you want to teach him to sit, as soon as he sits, click the clicker immediately. Give your pet a small reward to let him know he did well. The reward could be a small piece of food, a special toy, or simply a “good boy!”

It usually doesn’t take long for the animal to associate the clicking noise with a reward and the action he performed to earn it. Because he likes the reward, he will repeat the action that earned him the click and the subsequent reward.

When clicker training first begins, no verbal commands are used. You want the animal to associate the desired behavior with the click because the clicking noise is consistent, unlike the human voice. The human voice has many different tones that can mean many different things, but the clicking noise sounds the same and means the same thing every single time.

Once your pet has learned the desired behavior and understands what you want him to do you can begin to associate a verbal cue or hand signal with the behavior. Eventually, these cues will replace the clicker when you want your pet to perform the desired behavior.

Clicker training can be used to train any type of animal: young, old, domestic or wild. It is a highly effective way of teaching desired behaviors without punishment or physical force. This method is not meant to be used forever. Once an animal has mastered the behavior, the clicker is no longer necessary.

Clicker Training

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WagBrag’s co-founder, Russ Boles, has a deep history in animal rescue and welfare. For the past 12 years, Russ has served in various roles with Atlanta-based animal advocacy organizations focused on rescue, training and education. In addition, Russ led a local rescue volunteer team into New Orleans immediately after Hurricane Katrina, assisting in efforts to rescue and care for stranded animals. This experience changed his life, and animal rescue and advocacy will always be a part of everything he does.

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