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Clicker training was developed in the 1940's from the principles of operant conditioning developed by B.F. Skinner. It was used in World War Two to train pigeons and marine mammals. It is used by the Belgian government today to train rats to locate land mines thus saving many lives.
Zoos and marine parks use clicker training to train many species of animals and birds. The Bailey's in Arkansas have a clicker training school in which they use chickens to teach people how to train. There are articles on clicker training chickens written by the Baileys on the University of North Texas website in the ORCA section.
Clicker training is widely used by dog trainers for agility and obedience training.
Alexandra Kurland brought clicker training to the horse world in the 1990's with her great book Clicker Training Your Horse. I highly recommend this book. It literally changed my life when it got me started in clicker training.
The clicker is used as a bridging signal. It tells the animal the instant it does the desired behavior. It is followed by a reward -- usually food because food is the biggest motivator for most animals. Scratching, rubbing and praise are also helpful. We all like positive reinforcement. Horses work much more enthusiastically when they receive a paycheck, just as we do.
Timing is very important when using the clicker. The animal will repeat the behavior it was doing when it got clicked, so it is very important you click immediately when he does the behavior you want. Clicker training is based on positive reinforcement and shaping behavior in very small steps. The animal is very motivatred by getting a paycheck. Punishment will slow progress greatly because the animal will be afraid to offer behaviors. Clicker training is about rewarding the behavior you want and ignoring the behavior you don't want.
© 2001 Karen Parker