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Does Clicker Training Lead to Faster Acquisition of Behavior for Dog Owners?

By Brian J. Burton

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Clicker training is a method of dog training that has increased in popularity over the past 20 years (Feng et al., 2017). However, while there has been an increased use of clicker training, studies examining the claims that clicker training leads to faster acquisition of new behavior (Skinner, 1951; Pryor, 1999) has only been investigated in a handful of studies with domesticated animals. In addition, all known published studies comparing a clicker-plus-food group to a food-only group have found no significant difference in acquisition of a novel behavior (Dorey & Cox, 2018; Feng et al. 2017), which suggests that a clicker is no more effective than using food only. Due to these past results, and that all prior studies measuring acquisition were conducted with professional trainers and researchers, this study aimed to understand if a clicker-plus-food would be more effective in helping pet owners teach two novel behaviors (cone-targeting and a spin behavior) than using food-only. While there was no significant difference in the number of pet owners that successfully taught the cone-targeting behavior, there was a difference in the results of training the spin behavior as only owners in the clicker-plus-food group successfully taught the trick. Taken together, these findings suggest that clicker training efficacy may be dependent on the specific behavior being trained. Future research should investigate whether certain types of trained behaviors (including behaviors that require potentially confusing or threatening body language from the handler like veterinary and grooming procedures) and environments (low distraction vs high distraction) may be better aligned to using a clicker with the pet owning public.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2020
Pages 37
Department Psychology
Degree Master of Arts (MA)
Language English
University City University of New York (CUNY)
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Dogs
  3. Mammals
  4. open access
  5. Pet ownership
  6. Pets and companion animals
  7. training
  1. open access