Clicker training is a positive way to train a dog, clickers come in different sizes and shapes, a classic one would be a box with a metal sheet inside and when pressed makes a noise (Click) which is then paired with food. The click is used to mark a good behaviour and then the reward always follows soon after. Clicker training encourages the dog to think and use its brain. Timing is everything in training and if you give the good dog at the wrong time it will give the dog mixed messages whereas with a clicker it is quick and always the same noise given and food is always followed it will soon become clear if it is the timing why the dog was not quite understanding that last behaviour.
Ivan Pavlov in 1849-1936 came up with classical conditioning when doing his research he soon realised that he could pair neutral stimuli (the bell) with meat. After only a few times of using the bell and meat all he had to do was ring the bell and the dog started to drool.
The clicker is so good because once the clicker has been paired with food the dogs body will automatically respond as if food was present, the parasympathetic nervous system starts to release feel good and relaxation signals as it is waiting for the food.
Food becomes invaluable with dogs that have fear based issues as when the dog eats it releases Dopamine into the brain which gives positive emotional response (classical counterconditioning) this is used when a dog has aggression towards other dogs the food is given every time it sees another dog which helps to change a dogs emotional response.
Classical conditioning explained
These are the key points to classical conditioning, conditioned stimulus (CS), unconditioned stimulus (US), and conditioned response (CR).
A Stimulus needs to be conditioned so that the dog associates something good or something bad to then gain a certain response from that dog.
In Pavlov’s main experiment he rang a bell (CS) and every time he added meat (US) so the dog salivated (UR) then all he had to do was ring the bell and the dog still salivated (CR).
All the behaviours performed on these videos have been clicker trained 🙂