What is clicker training? How to click with your dog.

 Photo Credit:  Blue deVille Photograph

We love them and they love us. But how do you bridge the communication gap with your dog? Especially when, “Buddy” the lab enjoys greeting guests with muddy paws or “Daisy” the Mastiff thinks a walk on a leash is a race to the finish line.

The world of professional dog training is fairly new. Trending now are TV shows starring "dog experts" spouting theories about “pack leadership” and dominance. An appealing idea. A visit from an “all knowing” animal aficionado and “poof” – your dog can be perfectly behaved.

The reality of dog training is that a skilled method of input, using positive reinforcement, along with owner participation are keys for long-term success. The good news is that there is simple communication device, that when used correctly, effectively and quickly bridges the communication gap between you and your dog – commonly referred to as a“clicker”.                                                                       

How does it work?

Clicker training can easily be described as taking a snap shot of the behavior you like, the instant it happens, immediately followed by a primary reinforcer or anything of value to the animal (e.g. food, a toy, a life reward.) The click is an inherent noise, and is distinguishable from a word or sound. It is humane and requires no physical manipulation.


What does A clicker Have to do WITH TRAINING pigeons TO BOWL?

During the World War II, Harvard Psychology Professor, B.F. Skinner, and two students “bridged the gap” in animal communication when they began clicking a feeder switch to train pigeons to “bowl.” The trio discovered that when the precisely timed audible “click” was used in conjunction with food rewards, the birds responded faster and more reliably.


Clicker training used for animal Husbandry


While attending Karen Pryor Academy in Chicago, I viewed many case studies from top animal behaviorists and trainers worldwide. I learned that clicker training has been used for tactile training for husbandry care in zoos for decades. For example, the Denver Zoo uses clicker training to teach male hyenas to offer their leg for routine blood draws and at the Niabi (Ny-oby) Zoo in Illinois, reticulated Giraffes are clicker trained using a target to step onto a scale for weight documentation. Can you imagine how difficult and risky it would be to physically force an 1800 lb. giraffe to step onto a scale or sedate a hyena for routine blood draws?

Using clicker training, think of the possibilities for your dog at his next veterinary exam or nail trim!


A simple way of improving your dog’s behavior

If your dog has a tendency to jump on guests or steel food left overs off the counter, etc., with the help of a Karen Pryor certified trainer such as myself, I propose using B.F. Skinner’s method of operant conditioning with the use of a clicker to train incompatible behaviors as the fastest path to behavioral success. In fact, clicker training is scientifically proven to be 80% faster than traditional training methods!

Did I mention it’s fun for both humans and dogs!?



Learn to click with your dog by booking a class offered by a Karen Pryor certified animal trainer.