Tools of a New Relationship | Understanding the Tools of Clicker Training

These tools can be powerful.  Any powerful tool needs to be treated with respect.  Used in the training method referred to as clicker training which encompass the concepts of positive and negative reinforcement.  The basic concepts go far beyond just a click and a treat, and are at some level a part of any relationship.  Which is why it is so important that you understand these concepts and how they impact upon your training and your relationship.

Clicker training is powerful. More so with horses than with dogs. Something that few warn you about. The first thing you teach will be stuck in their head and for years to come will be what they do when they want a treat from you, so be careful. 

From <>


Which is why I suggest that the first thing you ask for is for them to hold their muzzle slightly away from you. A polite way to wait for the treat they are eager to take. Usually only takes a minute or two to teach this if you are good at capturing. 

From <>


Shocking how quick this can be taught. Which should really make you think.

From <>


After some consideration made me realize it might be wise to do a section on the dangers of clicker training in our instructor courses. & maybe because so few warn you re the dangers make it available to the public. Important that people are made aware.


Think of it like this. If you are a child and every time you run up to mom and give her a hug, you get a cookie. Then one day she is busy on the phone and you hug, waiting and really wanting that cookie, but she is too busy to give you the attention that you want. So you raise the bar and hug harder, still ignored, you start to yell.

This escalation of behaviour can be used to reinforce behaviour you want but it also appears when you are trying to extinguish a behaviour.  Something everyone needs to be aware of.

One thing to have escalating behaviour with a child, another with a 1200 unmannered horse.  Make no mistake this can be dangerous.  This escalating behaviour especially if you are trying to extinguish a behaviour because it often gets a lot worse before it gets better.  And with clicker training you come to realize the only true way to extinguish behaviour is for there to be no response.  Any response will reinforce the behaviour for the future for the simple fact that you got a response. We think if the response is negative then of course that would work. Which seems logical but that isn't how it works.  Which is maybe why we get things so wrong not realizing the psychology behind behaviour.

And one thing you have to be sure is not to reinforce it.  Which can happen so easily.  Imagine the mom in the story above realizing that she was distracted and it was her fault that her child had to yell to get her attention to get the cookie the child rightly deserved.  So she gives the child a cookie and goes back to her conversation on the phone. So now what happens?  Well you've just taught the child that yelling works, so guess what he is going to do the next time someone says no cookie for you.