This morning FaceBook reminded of a series of blog posts from Dr. Sophia Yin that I shared four years ago. If you are an animal trainer or aspire to be one, if you are interested in training or psychology, or if you are a science history geek, I believe you will find these four articles enlightening.
These four links are to two blog articles on Dr. Sophia Yin’s blog page where she has published her interview with Bob and Marian Bailey about the best animal trainers in history. I was very fortunate to have attended the same seminar that Dr. Yin did and heard some of this important history firsthand and had an opportunity to learn from two of the best animal trainers in history; Marian and Bob Bailey. Thank you to Dr. Yin for publishing this interview and Thank you to Marian and Bob Bailey for all that you taught me..
The next two articles discuss some of the training accomplishments of Animal Behavior Enterprises where Keller Breland, and Marian and Bob Bailey did much of their pioneering training work with animals.
Clicker Training uses an event marker or signal paired with positive reinforcement to train the dog each desired individual behavior. The reinforcement may be food, play, or even freedom; whatever is most motivating to the dog and applicable for that specific training session. The marker signal, in this case a “click”, is used to precisely indicate the instant the dog performs the desired behavior. For example, if I’m training a dog to sit, I click at the exact instant the dogs butt touches the floor and then reward them with a small treat. There is nothing magic about the clicker it is just a signal. Marine mammal trainers typically use a whistle as their signal or event marker. The clicker is used as a training tool only, and once the dog has been trained the behavior the clicker is no longer used for that behavior.
Clicker Training is not a novel new approach to training for dogs. It is a form of Operant Conditioning first outlined by behavioral scientist B.F. Skinner. It has been used since the 1940’s for training a wide variety of animals and has been increasing in popularity for training dogs since the 1990’s. It is also used at marine mammal parks like Sea World as well as at many zoos throughout the world.