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Clicker training

What is it "clicker training"?

Clicker training is the training or teaching technique based on what we know about the ways of learning of any living being. Research results have shown that any living being, no matter if it is a dog, a horse, a parrot, a dolphin or even a man, is more excited to learn and repeat actions which are consistent with their own desires and needs. The goal of the trainer working with a clicker is to provide the desired consequences to the pet in exchange of the behavior wanted by the trainer himself. These consequences can be called "rewards". By continuously rewarding the behavior that we want, provided by our pet, we certainly encourage it to be repeated. The clicker training is consequently a modeling system based on incentives and positive reinforcement.

Why is this system of training efficient?

Let's think about it ... When an animal intentionally has a behavior that it knows will gain it an advantage (reward), the desired result, it learns in a way called operant conditioning. It is known that animals, like humans moreover, associate an action, a place, a person or object, with a consequence, whether pleasant or unpleasant. This type of association is unintentional, it is a reflex. It is a kind of automatic learning, or in the terms used by researchers who have studied and developed this system of clicker training, a classical conditioning. The interesting part is that the clicker training which initially uses the classical conditioning turns it quite quickly into operant conditioning. The difference between animals that are trained by operant conditioning and those trained through classical conditioning is that the former adopt a goal-oriented behavior (based on reason), and the second category have a normal, usual behavior. The difference between the two categories of animals named above is that those trained through clicker and operant conditioning is trying to learn new behaviors. The dogs trained by this method remember behaviors even after a period of several years and that is because the relationship between those behaviors and the consequences following the adoption of those behaviors was pleasant. A dog is more concerned to retain, to acquire behaviors that have pleasant results than those behaviors that resulted in something unpleasant. On the latter, they try to avoid them.

The clicker

The clicker is a tool used for this training technique. It has a distinctive sound, the trainer uses it to mark the desired behavior. In other words the clicker can be called a behavioral marker. With the help of the clicker, we let the dog know which behavior will be rewarded. And this information is communicated through the clicker's sound, which is triggered when the desired behavior occurs. Then comes the reward.

Why is it preferable to a word?

A click is more powerful than saying a word because it is a sound that in other circumstances, the dog will not hear. This click means one thing: reward and nothing else. The spoken word may vary in hue, may be used incidentally in other circumstances than training, in consequence, it gets lost in the multitude of words and loses its meaning. It can express different emotions and can have different meanings each time it is used. The clicker has the same flat sound and same meaning each time it is used.

How it works

The trainer clicks when the behavior occurs: for example, the dog sits, the trainer clicks. As Karen Pryor said, the founder of the clicker training, the click is like you take a picture of the behavior. The behavior that the trainer wants to encourage. After that, the trainer "takes the picture", the trainer gives to the dog something he likes, a piece of food, a toy or favorite objects. Very soon your dog will associate the clicker's sound with rewards, with something fun that happens after it. Because the dog wants to repeat the enjoyable experience, he repeats the behavior again after which he heard the clicker's sound.

Why is the clicker system used by a trainer?

By traditional methods based on deterrence of a behavior by punishment, is visibly deteriorating the relationship between man and dog. The dog trust begins to weaken, in some cases to extinction. Through clicker training, the trainer gains dog's confidence, attachment and cooperation in learning and education.

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