Myth: if YouTube is any indication, there are all too many dog trainers falling over themselves making fun of and heavily criticizing the seemingly overly complaisant so-called all-positive dog trainers, clicking away happily on that little useless device, only too content to allow bad behaviour and throw treats at the problem.
Truth: Like verbal reinforcement, clicker training can be incorporated into any style of training, from all-positive to the most harsh and aversive methods.
While anything ever invented has the potential to be used incorrectly, I can’t think of anything as inherently harmless that has gotten as much unwarranted hate and stigma as our friend, the clicker. Clicker training is considered the trademark technique of the R+ world, and is therefore heavily associated with all its negative stereotypes.
Whether you’re a proponent of all-positive methods or not, it cannot be denied that secondary reinforcers, such as verbal praise, are an important part of dog (or any animal) training. Even if you use varying degrees of aversive techniques in training, you’ve undoubtedly used secondary reinforcement. All that “click” noise is is a secondary reinforcer!
While verbal reinforcement works pretty well for teaching and shaping many behaviours, there are various times when clicker training has its advantages:
I’m a big fan of clicker training, it’s helped me effectively teach some rather complex behaviours, but it does take practice, as simple as the concept may be. For a how-to on clicker training, please read our clicker training article.
Good luck, and happy training!