Some children of eight or nine grasp the principles the moment they are exposed to them, and can go right to work; having no preconceptions they catch on a lot quicker than adults sometimes. But I think three is a bit too young for the insight into cause and effect that clicker training takes. By all means she can click her stuffed animals or pretend animals; but I'd suggest that with the cat and the dog she be allowed to click and give treats, three or four treats per animal, once a day, say. That will be clicker training, as far as she is concerned; she'll understand more about it as she gets older. Meanwhile the dog will incidentally learn to sit and hope for treats from her, and the cat might learn the same.
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.
March was a busy month. Peggy Tillman's Step-by-Step clicker picture book came out and people love it. Veterinarian and behaviorist Nick Dodman, author of "The Dog Who Loved Too Much," calls it 'a wonderful bookâ€¦a mustâ€¦this is the way dog training should be. If every dog owner bought this book I would be out of business and the shelters would have to shut down." Kathleen Weaver, founder of click-l, says flatly
Random or variable reinforcement is a useful procedure in making a given behavior resistant to extinction, for example in the shaping process, when one wants to raise criteria. To go from reinforcing every response to selectively reinforcing stronger responses you need to develop enough resistance to extinction so that the animal neither changes the behavior instantly upon going unreinforced once or twice, nor quits altogether. Resistance to extinction is also important in maintaining long duration behaviors, as in searches, field trialing, and so on; and can be developed gradually. Bob and Marian Bailey might consider this simply another example of a shaping schedule.
"Come" is no harder to shape than any other behavior BUT in real life it has a huge component of criteria to raise. Start indoors. Use a clicker and desired treat, not kibble, for several one-or-two minute training sessions daily. Call the dog, and click if he comes toward you. Do this in your living room. Call him from a few feet, and click, when he takes one step, then more steps, of if he comes right to you. Then call him back and forth between two people. Click and treat good responses. Ignore poor responses. If you get more than one or two poor responses, retreat to an earlier shaping step and reshape upwards; this just means you don't have the behavior at that criterion level yet.