Jessie was so much fun to train with a clicker; she absolutely loved when it came out.
Clicker training has been around for a very long time. It started with the dolphins, their trainers and a whistle. Yes it was a whistle that was used with the dolphins and that is where Karen Pryor came in. From whistle to clicker; she introduced the art of clicker training to the dog world.
Clicker training uses a sound to reinforce a behavior. But first a connection must be made with the pre-conditioned "food is coming" response to a correct behavior. The connection training MUST be taught before the use of the clicker will have the proper effect.
Most dog owners do not fully understand the clicker. Those set loose with a clicker, are clicking all over the place.
Clicker training is all about timing. Think of a dolphin being taught to jump through a hoop that is 10' in the air. The behavior that the trainer wants to mark as "yes that's what I want," is the act of going through the hoop. You cannot deliver a treat at the exact moment that the dolphin goes through so you must "mark it." For this to work, there must be a pre-conditioned link of "whistle = food."
This is exactly how the clicker works. You teach your dog that each and every time they hear a click, they get food. The click=food. This is where much of the confusion lies. People are clicking for everything; not delivering food rewards when they should be delivered and the clicker loses it's power.
Sure it looks cool to use a clicker but it works much better if you understand how and when to use it. Many people, including myself also use a verbal maker like "key, yes or right." "Yes" is my word and I conditioned this word very early on with Elsa. I like to have it in my training toolbox so that if I am out somewhere and need to mark something I can just use "yes."
Clicker training works amazingly fast. But, if you truly want to utilize the power of a clicker; I suggest that you learn how they work. Clicker training really is all about timing. You must perfect your timing before adding a dog to the scenario. First you need to learn how and when to click and then you add your dog.
A dog who is clicker trained learns to offer behaviors. Bring out a clicker to a clicker trained dog and the offering begins. As soon as I bring out a new item that Elsa has never seen before, along with the clicker, it starts. She will immediately push it, bite it and paw at it waiting to hear the click. Once she gets the click, she clearly understands that she is headed in the right direction.
Click is not a lure, it is not a pleasant sound making device that has magical and mysterious power; it is an amazing way to link reward delivery with a behavior. That is it's power but to utilize it to the fullest the human must learn how to unlock it's power first.