Once the horse understands that a whistle or a click means food, I can link that sound to behavior. The horse begins to learn that the only time he hears the click is when he presents certain behavior. Now it's the horse who thinks he has me trained. He's aware of the power of his own actions. Present behavior. Get treat. What a wonderful system!
Tucker is my Labrador puppy. He's stop-dead-in-your-tracks handsome. Really. Cars have pulled over to tell me how handsome he is. Spend some time with him and you find out just how sweet and calm he is, too. He' so calm, people can't believe it. ("That's the calmest, lab I've ever seen. Golly Jed, come over here. Do you see this sweet puppy. He's real different from my daughter's lab. Is it the same breed?"
Clicker training can seem mysterious until you experience it personally.
Pick one person to be the subject, and someone else to be the clicker teacher. Use pennies, paperclips, or wrapped candies for treats. Send the 'animal' out of the room while the group chooses an everyday behavior: switch the light on, pour a glass of water, pick up a book, turn in a circle.
You to your cat: "Einstein, I like it when you lounge on the pink quilt on the black leather chair. You look so handsome there. You're such a good boy."
Einstein: "Well, thanks. I thought that might please you. Why don't you toss me another one of those tuna puffs? I bet I can get you to give me one if I touch my nose to your magic wand."
Those fanciful exchanges are not as unlikely as you may think. They embody the essence of clicker training, according to Boston author, trainer, and scientist Karen Pryor. Clear communication is what clicker training is all about.