Clicker Training Your Pets Made Easyby Alan Collins
Compared with classical conditioning, which emphasizes the entire target action from the beginning, clicker training is easier on the
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One of the hallmarks of clicker training is that it allows the animal to naturally discover the target behaviors by helping the animal achieve a series of small steps, or phases, that eventually lead to the target behavior.
Compared with classical conditioning, which emphasizes the entire target action from the beginning, clicker training is easier on the animal (and the trainer) because it uses every bit of progress to help the animal understand what the trainer really wants to do.
For instance, when a trainer wishes to teach his pet how to sit, the process can be broken down to three or four steps (i.e. looking down, lowering the head, and sitting). Each successive phase brings the animal closer and closer to the target action until, finally, the target action is achieved and the animal is rewarded.
You might be wondering, "how in the world will the animal remember what to do?" Well, that’s what the clicker is for – to mark behavior and actions, so that the student (the pet) will remember which actions will earn it treats, and which actions do not.
Whenever your pet performs a target action, or performs an action that brings him closer to the target action, you will send out a clear “click!” with your clicker to get the dog’s attention, and then you can give it a treat. Over time, the click becomes a nonverbal signal that helps the animal associate the sound of the click with a treat, and the target behavior.
Clicker training is different from classical conditioning of animals, because it focuses on getting the animal to perform the desired actions naturally, through methods such as targeting. A dog who has never been trained usually has problems understanding what the owner wants when the trainer relies solely on verbal signals. The clicker is used to capture the target behaviors – it helps the dog remember what to do.
The clicker itself (the device used by trainers) represents just one component of the entire teaching process; it is the not the center of the approach, as you will also be using verbal signals (words), and nonverbal signals (hand gestures).
Research shows that animals are generally more responsive to clicker training than they are to other methods, because no other training methodology utilizes rewards as effectively as clicker training. Again, rewards are just one part of the training process – each component plays an equally vital role in teaching a dog/cat/horse good behavior.
Clicker training can be used to teach not only dogs, but also cats, ferrets, chinchillas, hamsters, and so on. If you have a few minutes a day to teach your pet, clicker training is an amazing choice for you as a pet owner. Thousands of pet owners can attest to the fact that clicker training works extremely well with family pets.
- Alan Collins
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