Thanks to B. F. Skinner and his principles of operant conditioning, dog owners today have a deeper appreciation of how animals think and learn. For those who had skipped the behavioral science class, operant conditioning is a term coined by Skinner that refers to the type of learning based on the immediate consequences of behavior or actions. Reinforcement (both positive and negative) falls under this category. Simply put, if sitting upon your command, for instance, is quickly reinforced with a reward such as a treat or hug, your dog quickly learns to repeat that action.
As you browsed through some Web pages of the all-knowing Internet or read through a few helpful textbooks about dog training, it is very likely that you have come across the phrase “clicker training.” Clicker training is a training method that revolves around the use of positive reinforcement and a clicker to mark the behavior intended to be reinforced. A clicker is just a toy-like device that can make a short but distinctive clicking sound when pressed. It doesn’t have some sort of weird magical powers that can work through your dog’s brain, but it does the trick of shaping desired behavior. The clicker is an effective and precise means of communication between a dog and his trainer as it is clear and unambiguous. That “click” informs your dog that he is doing the right thing and that a treat comes next.
One of the best things about clicker dog training is that not only is it effective and well proven, but also it is humane and free from abusive or degrading corrections. To learn more about clicker training, check out professional trainer Eric Letendre’s video on clicker use and dealing with dog behavioral problems.