Clicker training can accelerate any form of training to a surprising extent. But is it really necessary to buy a clicker or could you make a sound with your mouth/voice/body etc and get the same results?
There are many theories stating that the sound the clicker makes is processed much faster by a dog’s brain. Whether this is true or not, I am not sure.
Putting scientific evidence in favor of one or the other aside, here are some pros and cons of using your voice or a clicker;
Cons of a clicker
- It costs money – even if it isn’t much
- You can very easily accidently click it – rewarding the wrong behavior. This can also, at times, be hard to reverse. Simply holding it in your hand, your palm or thumb or even the side of your leg could click it unintentionally.
- It could fall, bringing you in a potentially dangerous situation, depending what animal you’re working with. This could also simply delay your reaction if you need to reward something when you dropped it.
- Not practical when in water, etc (rusts or gets lost)
- If your animal does something that needs to be positively reinforced and you don’t have a clicker with or on you, it could have a large effect on your training. It is possible to train vocal and clicker cues simultaneously, but usually one will be stronger than the other.
Pros of a clicker
- Guaranteed to always sound the same
- Any other trainer can begin training with an animal using the clicker and the animal will understand.
- Very easy to condition
- Quick and snappy sound
Cons of voice/other signals
- The main con is that it will be much more difficult for someone else to replicate the sound to be exactly the way you do it.
- If it is a word or sound that the animal might hear in every day situations (even a whistle), an unwanted behaviour could easily be rewarded, for example, “Good!” or “Okay!” are used very often in conversation.
- When you are sick it is hard to get the sound the same or use your voice for longer periods of time.
- If your bridge (cue) is something with your body or a unique sound, it might be that you aren’t able to make it in time for the reward if everything happens quickly.
Pros of voice/other signals
- Most importantly — you always have it with you!
I hope this helped you decide how you will condition your animal while training with positive reinforcement and I will be sure to add on to the lists and make more comparisons in future posts!