Clicker Training Your Dog or Cat

Clicker training uses positive reinforcement and behavior conditioning to train your pet. By rewarding desired behavior with a “click,” your pet knows that he is doing a desired behavior and will be rewarded for it. Clicker training does not use punishment and is a safe, humane way to get the well behaved pet of your dreams!

Animals and people associate an event, action, person, place, etc. with an outcome, either good or bad. The more an event is paired with a consequence, the stronger the association becomes to that event and consequence. This is called classical conditioning and forms an automatic behavior, such as a habit. This is the same type of response that Pavlov got with his dogs and a ringing bell.

At first, this is the type of conditioning that you will use for clicker training. When your pet starts to repeat the action in order to earn the reward it becomes operant conditioning. Operant conditioning has four aspects, positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, punishment and extinction. Clicker training uses positive reinforcement as the desired behavior is rewarded with a click and a treat.

A clicker works better than treats alone because the clicker is an immediate response to the desired action. It takes a moment to give a treat and by then your pet will have forgotten what he is getting rewarded for. By clicking immediately during the action, your pet more quickly learns what he is being rewarded for, therefore he knows which actions to reproduce to get the reward.

Using the clicker rather than words gives your pet the exact same sound for each action. Your pet quickly associates that sound with doing something right. Because your voice can change pitch, etc. it is not a reliable way to tell your pet that what he is doing is the desired action.

When you first begin clicker training, you won’t give your pet commands, such as “sit” or “stay.” You will allow your pet to perform the action on his own. When you get the desired behavior, immediately click, then reward. When your pet has been clicked several times for doing the desired behavior, he will soon come to associate that behavior with a reward. Once the behavior is completely learned, you can start using commands to get the desired behavior.

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4 thoughts on “Clicker Training Your Dog or Cat

  1. I’ve just started clicker training my Siberian Husky puppy to train her as my new guide/service dog for when my current guide dog retires. The clicker is a great tool, and it’s so easy to use and understand for both the person and the dog!

  2. Diane says:

    I’ve been training my cat with the clicker. She’s fine at home, but won’t take food in new places. Since I’m training her for film and commercials, this means the training so far is useless. I’ve tried feeding her outside and moving the dish further into the open. I’ve tried not feeding her for 1 1/2 days prior to taking her to a new location. I heard that giving her a very small amount of food every day and reducing her weight will do it. Is that true?

  3. Lissa says:

    Diane,

    Her not taking the food really has nothing to do with her weight. It’s a matter of consistent training because cats are creatures that don’t like change, taking her to a new unfamiliar location throws off her training. Plus, with you withholding food, it stresses her out more. In order for her to perform on a consistent basis, you need to be sure that she is completely trained before moving to a new location. New people, new smells and new activity tends to make good behavior go out the window.

    The important thing is to click her EVERY time she makes even the slightest movement toward the food. Clicker training is about rewarding her for moving in the right direction. Say for example if you’re training a cat to turn on a light switch. You would click every she touches it and then click when she actually flips it.

    Using familiar things in an unfamiliar situation will help also. Does she have a favorite toy? Her bed? She needs something that has her scent on it to help keep her calm. Additionally, the use of a ComfortZone Spray with Feliway will help alleviate some of the stress that she is feeling in a new situation.

    ‘Lissa

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