Lesson 6 – Clicker Training is like signing a contract.


Welcome to lesson six of clicker training fundamentals. I hope you are enjoying the course so far. In this lesson we are going to talk about a very important element of clicker training. Improper application of the following principles is one of the biggest mistakes made. Start this lesson off by watching the video below.

Clicker Training is kind of like signing a contract.

In the last lesson I talked about how clicker training is like signing a metaphorical contract with your animal. The promise that you make is that every time you click, your animal is guaranteed a piece of food. Moving forward, its very important that you understand this principle. This applies even if your finger slips and you click accidentally. Even if you click and your animal was doing the complete wrong behaviour. The contract states: You Click –> You Deliver. Here’s why this is important;

  • In this course you have learned to pair the click with food delivery.
  • You have tested your animals awareness of the click and they understand its meaning.
  • The sound of the click is now reinforcing for your animal.
  • The continual power of the clicker lies in its consistent pairing with your food item after every click.
  • With the above being true, whatever your animal is doing immediately before an accidental click, gets reinforced. I.e. there is a greater probability of that behaviour occurring in the future.
  • If you click accidentally and you don’t pair that individual click with food, but you have been and continue to pair every other click with food, your accidental click will still have reinforcing value.
  • Consequently, you have still reinforced whatever your animal was doing immediately before the accidental click.
  • Also remember the continual power of the click lies in its consistent pairing with your food item. Because you can’t change the fact that you just accidentally reinforced something, it therefore makes sense to help sustain your clickers power and pair that accidental click with a piece of food.
  • Hypothetically it makes no difference to the effect of that individual click on future behaviour.

The other mistake that people make has earned the name in the industry ‘Blazing Clickers’ For example, lets’ pretend that a trainer asks for 10 different behaviours from an animal. The animal gets a click after each behaviour. However only gets food for 2 out of the 10 clicks. Here’s what will most likely happen in this situation. Firstly, if it hasn’t already happened, the click will lose its reinforcing value. This is because the power of the clicker relies on its consistent pairing with food (or other established reinforcer). The animal therefore will focus on other information in its environment to predict when food is coming. Commonly this is the movement of the trainers hand. In this situation the specific hand movement takes on the role of the clicker.

Behaviour –> Specific hand movement –> Food

Additionally there are now  low levels of reinforcement in the training session. Often behaviours therefore become sloppy or break down. And animals frequently become disinterested. Before moving on with the course I am going to advise you as to how to avoid this pitfall. In your mind sign this metaphorical contract with your animal. Every time you click you deliver food. 

We now understand that we have to deliver food after every single click. In the next lesson we are going to examine some added benefits that the clicker can bring to your training sessions. After this we will move on and start talking about shaping/training new behaviours. I’ll see you in lesson 7.