Clicker Training: Does It Work & How Easy Is It To Learn?

Clicker training can be used for the simplest training tasks to some of the most complex behavioural problems that you may ever come across, says Ryan O'Meara.

The advantages of using clicker training first and foremost are that we are using the science and technology of learning rather than tradition and folklore, in other words it uses the laws of learning that are always in effect, and with clicker training, learning models or rules are applied to an animal’s behaviour in order to predict consequences and work toward increasing certain behaviours (the behaviour we desire from the dog), or decreasing other behaviours (the behaviour we don’t like from the dog).

Clicker training is not a quick fix or a magic dog training bullet. Dog owners who want to have a well behaved dog will need to learn the basics of dog learning theory and understand precisely how the clicker fits in with a dog training reward based strategy.

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Clicker training works because it is founded on established scientific principles governing the learning process. When training a dog to do anything from agility, fly ball, search and rescue to just basic good dog manners involves operant behaviours meaning behaviour that is influenced by the events which immediately follow a specific action. In other words, with operant behaviour the dog is acting on the environment as much as the environment is acting on the dog.

If the dog begs and food follows, it is likely that the dog will repeat that behaviour. If a dog barks and attention follows, it is likely that the dog will repeat that behaviour. The dog learns that its behaviour has consequences.

Understanding how a dog learns gives us an advantage in that we can use these rules with certainty and immediacy to either increase or decrease the frequency of that behaviour.

What dog trainers refer to today as clicker training, is actually a slang term for Applied Operant Conditioning, which was initially developed on the foundations of Skinner’s work more than sixty years ago by a trio called Keller Breland, Marian Breland-Bailey and Bob Bailey who ran a company called Animal Behaviour Enterprises (ABE) which started in 1943.

Learn More About The History, Uses and Applications of Clicker Training Here:

Have you tried clicker training with your dog? How did you get on? We'd love to hear about your experiences, tips and things to try (or avoid!).

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