With the clicker and the principles of operant conditioning, you can shape the emotional state of an animal, just as you can shape any other behaviour. Simply clicking and treating dogs calms them. A busy dog has no time to be fearful, and the clicker does that: keep their mind busy.
The clicker is ideal, because it is a clear way of communication. It’s the same sound. The same thing, every single time. Information empowers every animal and helps shape its attitude to the environment it lives in. Once the dog realises he’s in control of his environment and the consequences his actions may have, his confidence will grow. The sound of the click gives the dog positive information, information he needs to succeed. With success comes confidence!
Clicker training puts the focus on what the dog is doing right, instead of wrong. Too often we focus on the negative behaviours, not just with dogs!
The clicker is meant to capture positive behaviours which helps build the relationship and trust between you and the dog.
The clicker is handy, quick, clear, precise and loud. It doesn’t have any emotion (like your voice does) and it’s clear. There is no maybe or hesitation in a clicker. It is a communication tool that works in any situation or setting.
So what is clicker training exactly?
Clicker training is based on operant conditioning. It uses a marker (click) to tell the dog what it was doing at that exact moment, was right! Behaviours are marked with the click and then encouraged and reinforced, which will make the behaviour happen more often. Soon they learn click = treat!
Soon the click itself becomes a reward marker (because they know food is coming) this spikes their dopamine (and makes them feel good!). Now the click is conditioned and we would call that a ‘conditioned reinforcer’.
Marker training in itself is pretty straight forward. You see something you like, mark it (with a click or yes), reward.
Make sure you’re not fumbling around too long to get your dogs reward out, because then the moment is lost. You have to be prepared.
Click to Calm - Emma Parsons.