The clicker is simply a tool used to “mark” a behavior that you like and want your dog to repeat. The clicker makes a precise, consistent sound that you always follow with something your dog loves—a treat, a game of tug, or a romp in the park with doggie friends.
Why clicker training works
Dogs quickly learn that a click means success: something good will happen. Soon they start to figure out how to make you click. Use a clicker and you get rapt attention and enthusiasm from your dog. He learns quickly, and the lessons stick, because he’s figured out what works. He becomes mindful, in the best sense of the word.
Clicker training is scientifically proven to work. Shelter dogs trained with a clicker learned a new behavior on average 30 percent faster than those trained using the teacher’s voice as a marker.
What makes the clicker so powerful?
As Karen Pryor describes in her excellent book, Reaching the Animal Mind, a dog processes the human voice and the sound of the clicker in two entirely different parts of the brain. The frontal lobes process the human voice; the amygdala—the primitive “lizard brain” at the base of the neck—processes the sound of the clicker. The amygdala also processes fear, which is the expectation that something bad is going to happen. The clicker generates anticipation, the expectation that something good is going to happen. It’s no wonder, then, that a clicker-savvy dog gets excited when the clicker comes out.
Want to learn more about this research and the nature and use of clicker training? Karen Pryor’s Reaching the Animal Mind offers a simple, complete, and engaging introduction to all things clicker.
For more on how I apply clicker principles, see Services Offered.