Clicker Training uses an event marker or signal paired with positive reinforcement to train the dog each desired individual behavior. The reinforcement may be food, play, or even freedom; whatever is most motivating to the dog and applicable for that specific training session. The marker signal, in this case a “click”, is used to precisely indicate the instant the dog performs the desired behavior. For example, if I'm training a dog to sit, I click at the exact instant the dogs butt touches the floor and then reward them with a small treat. There is nothing magic about the clicker it is just a signal. Marine mammal trainers typically use a whistle as their signal or event marker. The clicker is used as a training tool only, and once the dog has been trained the behavior the clicker is no longer used for that behavior.
Clicker Training Basics | Karen Pryor Clicker Training
If you are trying to teach a dog some tricks, a competitive obedience routine, or an agility course, then clicker training might just be the best method for you. If you are working with a qualified trainer, then you are going to see some great results. On the other hand, for dogs that have to obey in the real world, with threats, predators, aggressive encounters, other dogs and dog packs, some survival situations, a variety of people and other animals, then clicker training will then start to fail you. Since I teach companion obedience, with dogs that are outside the controlled environment of the competition ring, I don’t use clickers. They aren’t as useful in those circumstances, and to solely rely on them would endanger the dogs, the people, strangers, other animals, and property. Dogs in the real world aren’t like dolphins trapped in a swimming pool with nothing else to focus on but a noise maker and a bucket of fish. Dogs in the real world have more to deal with, and their environments aren’t so controlled.
Clicker Training starter kits are a great way to learn the basics ..
In an Expo panel, Jesús Rosales-Ruiz discussed how Skinner always said behavior has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The behavior is not complete until the dog is in a position to repeat the behavior. This dovetails nicely with Alexandra Kurland's description of "loopy" training. Training loops follow the pattern: cue-behavior-click-treat-cue-behavior-click-treat-cue and so on—all occurring in quick, clean loops.
Dog Training | Karen Pryor Clicker Training