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.