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Clicker Training: Positve Reinforcement Removes Dog Training Guesswork

Nov 17, 2007
Clicker training is a form of positive reinforcement in the field of operant conditioning wherein the clicking sound from a mechanical device marks a desired behavior in animal training. Contrary to popular belief, clicker training is not solely for dog training. This form of procedure is also popular among horses, cats and other pets.

Originally, clicker training was used as a method of obedience training for such unlikely trainees like dolphins in wild animal shows and carrier pigeons for military courier services.

Why clicker training works

The process works via association. If an animal performs a specific task according to the instruction it is given, reward is granted immediately, accompanied always by the clicking sound. The animal soon associates the clicking sound as a means to a promised reward. The longer the training process continues, the easier it is for the animal to follow instructions.

By far, this is the gentlest type of obedience training. Using force and punishment to bolster obedience in animals has always been a controversial issue. This issue is always weighed against traditional training versus the merits of such practice in the long term psychological health of the animal. Negative reinforcement may be in the form of aversive methods, caging, choke collars, force, punishment, sprays, and /or withholding of food or toy. Behavioral training using rewards has proven that animals subjected to this learn new behaviors easier, quicker and with more enthusiasm. They also end up healthier in body and mind.

With dog training, the clicker training method seems to work better than the other forms of positive reinforcement like food, positive attention, praise and voice reinforcements. This is due to the fact that the click pinpoints the "desired" behavior exactly. This eliminates the guesswork on the part of the animal, making the process go faster. Incredibly, animals using this method have learned new things in one to three clicks only, as compared to the weeks and months in conventional non-clicker training.

The clicker training provides a consistent marker in which the dog receives the same information. Also, the sound of the clicker is very distinct, which distracts the dog's attention from the other stimuli in the environment. Unlike verbal rewards like praise and verbal reinforcements, a clicker conveys no emotion whatsoever; thus the learning process is not marred by accidental slips of approval or disapproval in the voice of the instructor.

This kind of training seems also to work on puppies that are only several weeks old. This means that basic obedience, good manners and fun games can be taught to the animal at an early age. Family members and / or pert owners can be incorporate a bit of "clicking" in their daily routines. A walk to the park, a family picnic, or even watching TV can become a little training session for the animal. This informal mode of training even helps strengthen the bond between the animal and its instructor / pet owner. Clicker training is proving to be the most effective form of obedience instruction so far.
About the Author
Katia Lorenzen learned about clicker training when her dog was a puppy. And now she is pleased to tell you about the ultimate source of clicker training information: http://www.ClickerTrainingMagic.com.
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