I've opted to use a clicker again; it's been a while. Just a month ago I was cleaning out my "dog stuff" cupboard and found my first clicker; it had rusted so I pitched it. Long ago I moved happily from conventional training to positive training, I learned the basic concepts of clicker training and loved the philosophy behind it. Jessie was my first clicker trained dog; she is now 15.5 so yes I've been clicking for a while. It is not new at all; clicker training originated with the large sea animal trainers in the zoos and aquariums.
I often see new owners out in parks clicking away; they are proud to be clicker trainers but many haven't grasped the whole "click" idea. I see them clicking to get their dog to come to them; clicking as a cue but clicker training is not a cue but a marker. Originally used as a way to communicate a correct behavior to the performing mammals. Often the dolphins and whales were too far away or too high in the air to get a reward to for the appropriate behavior. By linking the clicker sound to a reward they were able to mark behaviors that were far away.
Over the years I dropped the clicker and replaced it with the word "yes." It is not as intense nor does it offer that loud instant sound that is so great about the clicker itself but it is a definite alternative. Now that we have a new addition and after talking to the training at our puppy classes I decided to give the clicker another go. It definitely breaks noise and distraction better than yes and although I hate the whole idea of having to hold yet something else, I'll use it. I will use it until we get on a role and likely switch back to "yes."
Karen Pryor's Don't Shoot the dog catapulted clicker training into the training world and since then it has steadily grown. The book is a fabulous read and if you have not read it already I suggest that you do. After reading Karen Pryor's book many years ago it changed my world as far as training is concerned. So yes it is a good read.
Timing is all important with clicker training and it is probably one of the hardest things to teach a new dog owner. This is why I opted not to use clicker training in my own training of clients. I felt a hard negative push back from owners as they struggled with a new dog, training and the whole clicker thing. But if you are dog savvy and/or willing to learn and plod through the beginning of clicker training then it is definitely a great way of teaching our dogs.
Many behaviors can be quickly learned with the clicker. It is great fun to shape behaviors with the use of a clicker. My little JRT (Jack Russell Terrier) literally learned to jump through hoops, crawl, pray, spin etc etc with a clicker. The clicker also helps a dog learn to learn and learn to offer new behaviors which is something that many dogs have a problem with. Luke is one of those.
So if you've never understood the clicker or are just curious; get Karen Pryor's book and have a read.