How does a clicker improve cat and dog training?

You will read the phrase that in clicker training a cat or dog, the sound of the clicker, acts as a “bridge” and therefore makes the training more efficient. What does a “bridge” mean in this instance? That’s the question.

And the answer is in the illustration below. In other words, when you are training a cat or dog you should provide the reward within about a second of the companion animal carrying out the correct action that is being trained. This may be difficult to achieve on occasions because of the distance from the animal.

Why the sound of a clicker helps in training your dog or cat
Why the sound of a clicker helps in training your dog or cat. Image by MikeB. It is free to use by anyone under a Creative Commons: ATTRIBUTION-NODERIVS CC BY-ND license.
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The sound of a click is very precise and short. It can be delivered immediately the animal has successfully carried out the action as required. The reward is given very soon afterwards. The sequence is, therefore: correct action by companion animal – clicker sound – reward.

Here is a 16-year-old video by Karen Pryor who is one of the founders of clicker training.

The animal then associates the desired action with the clicker sound and the reward with the clicker sound. Therefore, the animal associates the correct action that they have made with the reward.

An alternative is to use a ‘marker word’ which means a sharp, short word uttered by the trainer such as ‘Yes!’ Or it might be the name of the animal that you are training. It has the same effect only, perhaps, the sound of a clicker is more precise and sharper.

Perhaps it is fair to say that the sound of the clicker is more likely to be impressed on the animal’s brain which would assist training.

The timing is essential. If you are interested in clicker training your cat you would probably be advised to get help for one hour or so from an experienced clicker trainer or you might watch a good demonstration on a YouTube video by an expert such as by Karen Pryor. One of her videos is on this page.

The dog or cat will learn to enjoy hearing the sound because it is linked quite quickly to the reward which is normally a very special food treat. The better the treat the better the training.

Dr Bruce Fogle DVM the famous vet/author says that training is logical because it happens all the time, informally. Clicker training is an extension of informal, mutual training between cat and human.

P.S. Rubbing a cat or dog’s nose in their urine as a form of punishment or training will achieve nothing but confusion and fear of the person involved.

P.P.S. Full-time indoor cats are far more common that even 5 years ago in America and the UK. They need mental stimulation. They don’t get enough. Why not train them? Great for the mind. And useful for both cat and owner at the end of the training.

Below are some more articles on training.

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