I'd like to set the record straight about my positive-reinforcement training...I have so far not needed to, and actually prefer NOT to clicker train. But I’m not “anti-clicker”.
Clicker training IS positive-reinforcement training. This method “marks” desired behavior by using a mechanical device that makes a "click" sound. In Psych-speak a “marker” is a signal to the animal that it is doing the right thing. The marker is quickly followed up with a reward (typically food) to reinforce the behavior.
I, and other non-clicker positive-reinforcement trainers, mark behavior with the word “good”. The methodology is the same. The equipment is different.
So why do I refrain from clicking? First, let me say if someone wants to use a clicker I’ll be happy to teach them. And I do endorse this method of training. It’s just not my preference. When I began as a trainer, I mentored with a non-clicker professional. I learned that with any form of positive-reinforcement, TIMING of markers and rewards is more important that the form they come in.
Other reasons I don’t click includes feedback from clients previously experienced with clicker classes:
- the dog was scared or otherwise made anxious by “click” noise.
- complaints that if timing wasn’t perfect, training did not go well.
When it comes right down to it, I have no need to carry around one more piece of equipment when using my voice works just as effectively. I always carry that with me. So even outside of formally practicing with my dog, if she does something naturally that I want to train I can still say “good” and give her some form or reward and not worry about where I left my clicker.
In closing I want to reiterate that there is absolutely nothing wrong with using clickers to train. Any training that is based on positive reinforcement and is effective is worth exploring. Some dogs actually do BETTER with clicker training (most likely because the owner does better for a variety of possible reasons). As with any training, it is a matter of find out what works best for both you and your dog.