Clicker training uses a method called operant conditioning, pioneered by psychologist B.F. Skinner in the 1960s. Skinner observed that an animal will tend to repeat an action that has a positive consequence and will avoid an action that has a negative consequence. If a primary reinforcer (like food) is used, the animal will become conditioned to repeat the action that produces the food. Using operant conditioning, Skinner trained rats to push a lever that released food pellets.
Clicker training works by getting your pet to expect something enjoyable (like a treat) in return for doing something you ask him or her to do. You use the clicker so that your pet will associate the treat with the clicking noise. It is a fun and effective way to communicate with your pets.
How do I do clicker training?
Choose the best clicker.
Choose a clicker that would not startle your pet. Loud noises can be unsettling.
Charge the clicker.
Be ready with your clicker and some soft treats on hand, cut or broken up into small pieces. Next, position yourself near your pet, someplace quiet where there aren’t any distractions. Push and release the clicker, then immediately give your pet a treat. Repeat this numerous times. You want your pet to expect a treat every time she hears the clicking noise. Click while or immediately after the behavior happens. Always click first, then offer a treat. Only click once.
Use the clicker to reward behavior.
Next, when your pet does anything that you’d like her to repeat, you can “capture” that behavior by click-and-reward. It usually only takes a few repetitions for a pet to learn that a particular behavior elicits the click, followed by the reward. If you are working on teaching her the “come” cue and she takes two steps in the right direction, click the clicker, and offer a treat. After she learns that this small step elicits a reward, withhold the click until she moves a bit closer to you. Repeat this exercise until she eventually comes all the way to you. This process is called “shaping.”
Keep the sessions short and enjoyable to your pet.