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What is Clicker Training?
By: Karen Pryor

The click is a marker signal
Clicker training is a science-based system for teaching behavior with positive reinforcement. You use a marker signal (the sound of a toy clicker) to tell the animal (or person) when it's doing the action that will pay off. The system was first widely used by dolphin trainers who needed a way to teach behavior without using physical force.

No corrections or punishment required
In traditional training, you tell an animal or person what to do, make that behavior happen (using force if necessary), reward good results, and punish mistakes. In clicker training you watch for the behavior you like, mark the instant it happens with a click, and pay off with a treat. The treat may be food, a pat, praise, or anything else the learner enjoys. If the learner makes a mistake all you do is wait and let them try again.

Replacing the clicker with praise
Clicker trainers focus on building behavior, not stopping behavior. Instead of yelling at the dog for jumping up, you click it for sitting. Instead of kicking the horse to make it go, you click it for walking. Then, click by click, you "shape" longer sits, or more walking, until you have the final results you want. Once the behavior is learned, you keep it going with praise and approval and save the clicker and treats for the next new thing you want to train.

It's fun and exciting for pets and people
Dogs and other animals quickly learn that the marker signal means, "Something good is coming." Then they realize they can make you click by repeating their behavior. They become enthusiastic partners in their own training. In people, clicking reduces the need for correction and is especially useful for training physical skills. Clicker training is exciting for animals and fun for us. And it's easy to do. You might get results on the very first try.

Reprinted by permission
2003, Karen Pryor's