Clicker training for dogs
by Miriam Fields-Babineau
Dogs are social animals and wish only to remain within their social environment.
Dogs will do what they must to conform to that environment—their social
pack. Hence, when they are forced to work through pain or fear, or even when
they are lured with food, they respond. The response may not be, “Hey, I’m happy
to work for you. Any time!” Yet they still perform, more out of fear of the consequences
than the pure desire to work.
The theory behind clicker training has been around since the early part of the
nineteenth century. It was introduced by several behavioral researchers who
sought to understand the learning process. They asked, Do we learn best through
imitation or association? Do we remember better with reinforcement or with
Overall, the outcome of all the research was the development of operant conditioning
(any procedure in which a behavior is made stronger or weaker by its
consequences) as a tool to train any animal of any temperament, wild or domestic.
Clicker training is one method that implements the principles of operant conditioning,
using positive rewards to reinforce desired behaviors.