What Is Clicker Training?

Posted in: Clicker Training
Balance That Clicks!

Balance That Clicks!

Clicker training is an animal training method based on behavioural psychology that relies on marking desirable behaviour and rewarding it. As such it is often called a positive reinforcement method because the animal is rewarded for the correct behaviour as opposed to punished for the wrong one.

The “click” noise marks the moment that the animal has offered the desired behaviour which earns the horse a reward, usually a food treat.

Clicker training is a way of breaking down behaviours and teaching them to the animal in a way that ensures they understand what is being asked and is not forced or punished if the wrong behaviour is offered. Training in this way ensures clarity for both the animal and the trainer, making training much more enjoyable. It is a very effective, safe and humane way to teach any animal anything which it is physically and mentally capable of doing.

How can it help me and my horse?

Because of the use of reward instead of punishment, your horse becomes more eager and willing to work; actively searching for what you are asking for because there is benefit in it for both of you. You’re both aiming for the same goal together, which means that training becomes much more fun and rewarding, your horse working with you. Because of the clarity and motivation established within clicker training, you can teach your horse pretty much anything you can form in your imagination – from stopping spooking through to improving self-carriage, balance and rhythm, painting, picking out colours and even laughing at your jokes!

Why use the click? Why not just a word?

A click is more powerful within training than a spoken word because it is not a sound heard by the horse in other circumstances. It means one thing only: a reward is coming because of what you did when you heard the click. It can be produced instantly and at the exact moment a behaviour occurs. Even a very quick and subtle behaviour, the twitch of an ear or the engagement of a specific muscle, can be clicked.

Unlike our voices, which can say the same word in different ways, and so express different emotions or meanings each time, the click sounds the same every time it is heard. Therefore its meaning never varies. Humans are highly verbal creatures, but our horses are not. It can be difficult for them to pick out a single word from the stream of meaningless words they hear us speak every day. The click’s meaning, however, is always clear. It is always directed at them, and it is always brings good things.

The clarity with which a click enables trainers to communicate with their animals has a profound effect on their relationships. Their level of interaction increases and both trainer and animal become more interesting and fun for each other.

Does it cause the horse to bite and have food issues?

No, ABSOLUTELY not! In fact it produces the exact opposite! It is an incredibly powerful way to teach horses to be polite around people and food because they learn that biting and fussing never gets them a treat, but standing politely does!

Who else uses clicker training?

The military, aquariums and zoos and are just some of the places using clicker training for commercial purposes because it is the fastest, most effective method of training.

Dogs can be trained to do agility, pigeons to guide missiles, killer whales, dolphins and sea lions to do spectacular displays. Horses, leopards and bears can be taught to do stunts in shows or films. Even humans can be coached much more quickly and effectively to improve their riding, golf swing or their gymnastic back flips by using the same behavioural psychology principles as clicker training. Athletes, dancers and skaters are now using ‘TAGteach’. This form of training uses a click as a marker signal to teach precise physical motions quickly, accurately and positively.

Is clicker training a training method or a philosophy?

Sometimes people are surprised by the enthusiasm and dedication clicker trainers have for their method. These trainers may have first started learning to click as a way of training their dog, but soon realized that the fundamental principles of clicker training could be applied to other areas of their lives. Changing one’s focus from the negative to the positive can certainly be a life-changing event.

It certainly has become a philosophy for life for me!

Happy Clicking!

Jo Hughes