Clicker Training: A Demonstration


When an obedience trainer introduces the concept of clicker training, a graphic and clear demonstration of how it works can be easily completed with the following exercise. It is helpful if you have a person who already knows or has done clicker training previously. Select that person who will be the dog, (it is fun to let them decide what breed he wants to be) and ask him to leave the room. Then tell the remaining students that you are going to train this "dog" to do a trick without using any means of physical correction. The trick will be that you want the "dog" to sit down in a particular place or put his feet onto a particular chair which is a little apart from the rest of the chairs. (Although the demonstration can be more clear by having the "dog" being someone who knows the purpose of the instruction, it is not necessary that he knows ahead of time what the "trick" will be and it is a better demonstration if he doesn 't know this part of it.)

Then call the "dog" back into the room. When he comes in, immediately click the clicker and give him a small bit of a cookie. Talk to him and tell him what a good dog he is, pet him and praise him and click the clicker again and give him another bit of a cookie. Do this five to ten times at least. Then suddenly stop giving him the click sound or a cookie and just look at him. The person will look at the trainer in confusion and sometimes sit down, or move sideways or "bark" in order to get another reward. Do not click the clicker again unless the person moves in some fashion towards the chair you want him to go towards. As soon as the "dog" makes even one move towards the chair, click the clicker and give the reward, also praising in a happy voice. Each time the person moves closer to the desired behavior, repeat the reward sequence. Here is where it is nice to have the person already know a bit about clicker training, because by moving AWAY from the desired object or by doing unacceptable behaviors such as jumping or pawing, it will be very clear that there is NO clicker and NO reward and thus the whole procedure is a truly effective instruction technique. The pretending "dog" should also perform some unwanted behaviors such as jumping up on the human instructor or "pawing" at them, which is really funny but clearly an unacceptable behavior. When the "dog" performs an undesirable behavior it is easy to demonstrate that complete nonrecognition of the behavior becomes a negative reinforcement and also shows how there is no need to "jerk or pull" the "dog" into the desired place or position. And of course it is equally clear that when the desired behavior is finally accomplished, there will be a "jackpot reward" with a ton of praise and plenty of deeds!

All in all, besides providing a good laugh, this is one of the most effective methods of teaching your obedience class participants how clicker training works and how effective it can be as a training tool. In truth, this demonstration actually shows step by step how clicker training is a positive reinforcement and how negative behaviors can be extuitive through non non-compliance.