March 2018 Issue

Positive canine practicing owes a lot of its good fortune over time to clickers – however what are these items, and the way do you utilize them? The factor is, you dont if truth be told desire a clicker to make use of this common form of positive-reinforcement or force-free practicing. There are many different ways to mark your canine’s just right habits!

Unless you’ve been dwelling in a cave for the previous 20 years, you’ve most certainly heard of clicker practicing. Chances are just right you’ve noticed it, and perhaps even achieved it your self. But at the off probability you haven’t, or if you have however nonetheless aren’t positive what it’s truly about, learn on.

In 1984, dolphin teacher Karen Pryor revealed a small ebook titled Don’t Shoot the Dog. A small ebook – however it used to be destined to perform large issues. Although supposed to handle human interactions – to show other people how you can use nice reinforcement to modify the habits of different people – the ebook used to be seized upon via the dog-training global (undoubtedly because of the name) and shortly a seismic shift used to be below approach for the Rin Tin Tins and Lassies of the arena.

In the ebook, Pryor described how a clicker or different conditioned reinforcer may well be used to boost up finding out. Dog running shoes (specifically) discovered the strategies Pryor described to be simple, amusing, and a hit; over the years, the word “clicker training” turned into a well-liked slang time period for nice reinforcement practicing that makes use of a “reward marker” of a few type, and the clicker turned into the process’s brand.


Clickers are available in quite a few kinds. “Button” clickers are quieter – just right for sound-sensitive canines. Classic “field” clickers are louder and take advantage of distinct sound.

Clickers Work Because They Provide A Consistent Signal

A praise marker is a reproducible sign that signifies to the learning topic that she has simply earned a praise of a few type. The praise marker doesn’t must be a clicker; it may be any constant sound, phrase, or perhaps a gesture that all the time manner a praise is coming.

The praise marker additionally serves some other function: It bridges the time hole between the topic’s habits and the supply of the reinforcing praise. It would possibly take just a 2d or two to ship a deal with for your canine’s lips when he sits in entrance of you and you have got clicked a clicker, however if you’re instructing him to activate a gentle transfer this is around the room, the press of the clicker (or different praise marker) shall we him know that flipping the sunshine transfer used to be the habits that has earned him a praise, which he’s going to revel in once you move to him or he returns to you!

The secret to the clicker (or every other marker) is that this: When starting practicing, the marker is paired with a high-value reinforcer (maximum incessantly a meals deal with) till the canine has made a classically conditioned affiliation between the sound and the deal with.

If you utilize a clicker as your marker, you may create this affiliation to start with via clicking the clicker after which straight away feeding the canine a deal with. You repeat this plenty of occasions – click on, deal with; click on, deal with; click on, deal with – till your canine’s eyes illuminate when she hears the press and she or he seems to be for the deal with. We every now and then seek advice from this procedure as “charging” the clicker; we’ve given the press importance, and the canine understands that the press manner a praise is coming.

Your Dog Training Reward Markers Doesn’t Need to “Click”

A clicker is a small software that makes a constant, discrete clicking sound. Some make an overly sharp sound; some make a softer (despite the fact that nonetheless constant) clicking sound, just like the sound of a ballpoint pen being retracted or prolonged with the click of a button. But markers don’t must be a click on; any unique, constant sound, gesture, or match can paintings.

I every now and then use the verbal marker “Yes!” with canines, in a definite, constant, vibrant tone of voice (so it doesn’t get perplexed with a “yes” spoken in informal dialog). I’ve additionally perfected a noisy “mouth click” via suctioning my tongue to the roof of my mouth and pulling it off with a convincing “pop” – very helpful when running with horses and I need either one of my palms unfastened to deal with a 1,000-pound animal and comparable apparatus. (Yes, you’ll be able to clicker teach horses, cats, pigs, chickens, fish – as regards to any animal with a central fearful device.) In truth, canines who’re sound-sensitive would possibly do higher with a verbal marker than a plastic clicker.

But the marker doesn’t must be a valid! People who teach deaf canines frequently use a thumbs-up gesture or a short-term flash of a small flashlight to mark the specified habits displayed via their dog scholars. Any sign this is constant and simply spotted can paintings as a praise marker.

Charging a Clicker for Dog Training

Once you have got charged your clicker, you are prepared to start out practicing with it. Now you cue, suggested, trap, or simply stay up for the canine to accomplish a undeniable habits. The quick that the habits occurs, you click on and straight away feed her a deal with. After you do that a number of occasions, you’ll see that your canine will briefly come to keep in mind that no matter she used to be doing when she heard the press is what made the press occur and the meals seem. She may also briefly understand that chances are high that just right that if she shows that habits once more, she’ll get clicked and handled once more.

By the way in which – you wouldn’t have to click on to toughen each and every habits. Remember that the aim of the press is to bridge the space in time between the habits and the deal with, so the canine is aware of what habits is being strengthened. Technically, if you’re shut sufficient to the canine to ship the deal with straight away after she does the habits, you don’t must click on first. But maximum “clicker trainers” will testify that using a discrete sign turns out to assist maximum animals briefly discern and ship the specified habits.

The entire premise at the back of nice reinforcement-based practicing is that behaviors which are strengthened repeat or build up, and behaviors that don’t seem to be strengthened extinguish. So, if we’re just right at reinforcing the behaviors we do need, and combating reinforcement for behaviors we don’t need (control!), we finally end up with a canine who chooses to do behaviors that we love.

The ultimate step in this kind of practicing is so as to add cues. A cue invitations the canine to do the specified habits, the marker tells her when she’s achieved it, the praise reinforces it, and voila! Your practicing is definitely below approach. If you do that procedure smartly, punishment, ache, and coercion are completely needless for a a hit practicing program.

Use the Clicker for Training, Not Forever

Does this imply you’ll all the time wish to click on and deal with your canine for doing any fascinating habits for the remainder of her existence? Not in any respect. You do wish to supply suggested reinforcement in case you use a praise marker; your marker is a promise reinforcer is coming. In truth, there are research now that recommend the use of a marker and not using a praise (a click on, however no deal with) may cause your canine’s reaction to go to pot lovely briefly.

But you’ll be able to put behaviors on a variable time table of reinforcement (progressively!), so your canine comes to understand that at last a marker and praise will occur. “Lassie, sit! Good girl! … Lassie, sit! Good girl! … Lassie, sit!” Click, deal with. Like a gambler at a slot device, in case you range the reinforcement time table, your canine will stay taking part in the learning sport, looking ahead to it to repay. But be aware this: If you get too stingy or cut back reinforcement too briefly, your canine would possibly smartly surrender taking part in, simply as you could in case you had been sitting at a slot device that handiest infrequently gave you a small praise.

There are actually clicker running shoes in almost each and every group within the United States. If you’re taking a look to present it a attempt to need some assist, search one out. There also are many books and internet sites that may information you for your clicker practicing adventure. Ready, set…click on!

Clicker Training Resources

Here are some sources to get you began in your clicker adventure:


The Power of Positive Dog Training, via Pat Miller

Clicker Training for Dogs, via Karen Pryor

The Thinking Dog: Crossover to Clicker Training, via Gail Fisher


“Basic Good Manners” via Pat Miller

“Clicker Puppy” via Doggone Crazy


Search for “clicker training” on Youtube.com; you’ll in finding many nice examples. We strongly counsel the movies via teacher Emily Larlham.


Look for teacher referrals on the Pet Professional Guild. They would possibly not all be clicker running shoes however they’re all dedicated to force-free practicing, so maximum of them will likely be.


Most pet-supply retail outlets now raise clickers, as do your pleasant community clicker running shoes. You can in finding them simply on-line as smartly. In normal, the field clickers are louder; the button clickers make a softer sound.

Author Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, and proprietor of Peaceable Paws Dog & Puppy Training in Fairplay, Maryland, is WDJ’s Training Editor. Miller could also be the writer of many books on nice practicing. Her latest is Beware of the Dog: Positive Solutions for Aggressive Behavior in Dogs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *