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Is clicker training (Clicker + food) better than food-only training for novice companion dogs and their owners?

By Lynna C. Feng, Naomi H. Hodgens, Jessica K. Woodhead, Tiffani J. Howell, Pauleen C. Bennett

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Clicker training is a training technique whereby a signal (e.g. the ‘click’ of a clicker) is emitted by the trainer immediately after an animal offers a desirable behavior, following which a reward is delivered. Beyond improvements in training time, dog owners report that clicker training can make training more fun and strengthen the relationship between dog and handler. However, it can also be challenging for beginners and make some dogs overly excited or frightened. The aim of this study was to evaluate benefits and disadvantages of clicker training novice pet dogs. Local community members and their dogs (N = 45) volunteered for a 6-week trick training program in a randomized, waitlist-controlled, treatment design with pre- and post-intervention assessments conducted by blinded experimenters. There were three groups: Clicker + food training, Food-only training (without a deliberate signal), and Waitlist Control. Survey-based and behavioral data were collected, measuring the dog-owner relationship, dog impulsivity, and owner-reported training session experiences. Repeated measures mixed effects models were used to evaluate group differences. The Clicker + food and Food-only groups reported improved performance relative to the Control group on tasks included in the training course (F(20, 68) = 2.960, p 

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 204
Pages 81-93
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Dogs
  2. Human-animal interactions
  3. Pet owners.