There is a very big philosophical difference between Clicker Trainer and clicker trainer. See the difference? One is more of a proper noun and the other is just…less proper (LOL)!
I sat in on a class one day that was marketed as a “Basic Clicker training” class. I was rather upset by instructions by the trainer. She was working on a “Stay” with beginner dogs… if the dogs were successful they got a click and a treat… if they weren’t successful… they got a leash pop correction. Although this person was using a clicker as a marker, she was in no way shape or form a Clicker Trainer.
If you were to ask Karen Pryor, I probably wouldn’t be considered a purist Clicker Trainer. I use a “No Reward Marker” occasionally with certain dogs, which is something pure Clicker Trainers would say is a form of punishment (used to decrease a behavior) and is unnecessary. I will also rarely use mild sound aversion (an eh-eh) to stop unwanted behavior long enough to redirect them. Now these are few and far between and very much so on a case-by-case basis but they happen on occasion and purists would certainly say they aren’t necessary. However, other than some rare moments of using NRMs and sound aversion, I’m very much so a Clicker Trainer proper.
So what the heck does that mean? In its purist form, Clicker Training transcends the little noise box and embodies a much larger space so to speak. It is really an umbrella philosophy that believes that animals do not need physical punishments to be trained. It’s not about the dog being punished with pain/discomfort nor is it about the dog working to end pain (like stimming a dog on an e-collar until it sits–the sit turns off the stim).
Although the clicker has its benefits (it is proven to be more precise and faster at teaching new behaviors), I believe it’s totally possible to be a Clicker Trainer, in a broad sense, even if you don’t use a clicker (though I’m not one of them). Clicker Training is really about conditioning a marker (the click or a word or a sound), rewarding desired behaviors (or approximations of), “ignoring” mistakes in behaviors, using non-physical punishments to curb undesired behaviors (so using a time out, or losing access instead of a leash pop/hit/alpha roll), and encouraging the dog to think and learn when they train.
Even when I don’t have a clicker in my had, I still am following the tenants of Clicker Training. I’m using a conditioned marker, I’m rewarding what I want, ignoring what I don’t, and using non-physical forms of punishment to curb undesired behavior. While I do prefer using a clicker to teach new behaviors and in new or challenging environments… Clicker Training really does transcend the little noisemaker.
There are a lot of questions and myths out there about Clicker Training, this week I want to talk a bit about it. Maybe bust some myths, give some examples of the wide uses of the clicker, and maybe even have a video or two of training behaviors–we’ll see what inspires me this week!