Dr. Pavlov

By now, you’ve probably all heard the tale of “Pavlov’s Dog”. If not, it goes a little something like this … Dr. Pavlov, who was a Russian Physiologist and Chemist, began to study the digestive processes associated with dogs and the connections present between salivation and actions inside the stomach during the early 1900’s. It was through this time that he discovered the two processes were related closely by reflexes present within the dog’s autonomic nervous system. More specifically, if salivation was not present the stomach would not get the message to begin digesting. Dr. Pavlov sought to know if outside stimuli would affect the process. Therefore, he decided to ring a bell at the same time that he gave food to the dogs.

Before he began ringing the bell, the dogs would only produce saliva when they actually saw and ate their food. Shortly after he began ringing the bell, the dogs would then salivate at the noise of the bell when there was no food nearby. Pavlov referred to this as a “conditioned reflex,” which is an action that is learned. Hence, he called his bell-ringing process “conditioning”. Similarly, he realized that if he rang the bell too much with no food present, the conditioned reflex would eventually become repressed. In other words, meaning that the dogs will stop salivating when they hear the bell.

How Does This Apply To Clicker Training?

Clicker training is an applied operant form of conditioning that proves to be an exciting and fun way to train your canine companion, or other animal. This form of training is great because it involves no compulsion, abuse, force, or relying on trying to control the dog’s bad behavior.

Instead, this form of training is all about shaping and rewarding positive behavior with clear signals used for encouragement. Clicker training has been evident for many years, and is based around the general scientific ideology of learning. The clicker device is actually only a small little children’s toy. However, when it is used to train a dog, it can have a gigantic effect. This tool will help teach your dog that the clicking sound is important and is usually paired with another prime reinforcer like food. In other words, enough times of going click – treat, click-treat, etc., the dog will learn to associate the sound with food. It is much like Pavlov’s method for classical-conditioning, and known to work just as effectively. Once the dog makes the connection, you can begin to use the clicker as a way to reinforce the behaviors that you like (operant-conditioning). The clicker sound, unlike your own voice, is very distinct; more than likely your dog has never heard the sound before, making it easy for the dog to quickly and accurately identify the sound.

Your dog is used to constantly hearing your voice because you talk to him or her all the time. Although talking to your dog is good, when it comes to behavior reinforcement, our voice is not effective. This is because by the time you actually give the dog positive reinforcement and a treat, the dog has completed multiple tricks and will not completely understand what it is being rewarded for. On the other hand, the clicker system is a game for the dog. This game will involve the dog doing good things to try to get you to press the clicker as it will signal the onset of a treat. You need to make sure and only click for a behavior that you are happy with. Once you establish that set of behaviors, you can slowly get rid of the clicker and treat system. This training system will help you focus on what the dog is doing correctly, now what the dog is doing wrong. There are many advantages to the clicker system, including:

  1. Will work great from a short distance.
  2. Helps the dog to focus on behavior.
  3. Helps to correctly identify good behavior.
  4. It makes the end of an action, making it easy to ease into longer periods of time.
  5. Doesn’t rely on punishment, force, or abuse of any kind.
  6. You don’t have to stronger than the dog, physically.
  7. Training is easily transferrable from one person to another.
  8. Can help to mold an assortment of behaviors.
  9. It won’t lead to avoidance behaviors or aggression.
  10. The system is fun for both you and the dog! The clicker is very accurate at letting your dog know which behavior he or she earned a treat for; thus maximizing learning!

Don’t wait, if you have a dog you are having a tough time training, try the clicker system today. In the end, you’ll be happy you did!