How To Use A Clicker (Introduction To Applied Behaviour Analysis Terms)- Made Simple

Common Questions:

What Is A Clicker?

What Does It Do?

Do I Always Have To Use It?

How Do I Get The Behaviour On Voice, Hand Signal Etc?

How Do I Use It For Behaviour Change?


Video Demonstration & Explanation Of How To Get A Behaviour On Stimulus Control Using A Clicker
Handout Summary From Video

Process For Training Using A Clicker


Points To Note About Clicker Training
  1. Conduct a preference assessment by laying out 5 of his favourite things and seeing which one he chooses, you can then use this as his reinforcer. Practice pushing the click and then giving a treat no matter what he is doing. This is sometimes called loading the clicker and it is useful practice for your timing and helps him understand that good things are happening.
  2. The click usually stops the behaviour but this is ok. Remember you have taken the “photo” of the behaviour with the click or marker and then you have to reward within about 1/2 second- do not worry if he has gone onto another behaviour after this.
  3. Carry a clicker with you to capture anything wonderful he does. You might want to start using a word marker for those times when you don’t have a clicker. Something like a “yes” is easy to use.
  4. Don’t needlessly click. Only click to take a “photo” of the behaviour you want to “capture” and increase (by always pairing with a reinforcer on an FR1 or CRF schedule aka reward every occurrence)
  5. Keep sessions nice and short- count out a daily ration of treats (take it from his daily allowance) and do several short sessions throughout the day. You will make him nice and tired which in turn will become an abolishing operation for unwanted behaviour as a way to get attention- Try it!!
  6. You are increasing his repertoire by training new behaviours rather than using something that “stops” a behaviour. This is behaviour modification in its best form- Well done you!!! Instead of him jumping up to greet people, you can click a nice greeting which has all four of his feet on the floor.
  7. Start small with slight movements towards the behaviour, don’t expect big leaps straight away.  Start with short recall distances and movements towards a sit or down.
  8. Don’t forget to increase the criteria gradually to get longer stays, downs and shape increments towards the desired behaviour.
  9. If your animal does not respond when you put the behaviour on cue he DOES NOT UNDERSTAND IT!! He is not being defiant or it might be, he does not find the consequence salient enough. Take it back a step find out what he likes and start over.
  10. Never use correction with the clicker it will hinder learning, stress the animal, destroy trust and condition fear.
  11. If it appears not to be working you might be clicking too late or the reward might not be interesting enough
  12. Have fun with it!!
Some Technical ABA Terms 

Differential Reinforcement:
  • Using Response (behaviour) Consequence (Reinforcement)
  • We are marking the desired behaviour with a click and the consequence (reinforcer).
  • By doing this we are establishing the behaviours occurrence and if it is reinforcing enough it will naturally increase the behaviour.
  • Remember reinforcement is an increase in behaviour and punishment is a decrease in behaviour (simply defined)
Discriminative stimulus, SD, Cue or Stimulus Control:
  • Once we have the behaviour we can now put the behaviour on CUE (SD or discriminative stimulus)
  • We add a CUE (SD or discriminative stimulus) BEFORE the behaviour
  • Carry on with the response-consequence process but use the cue shortly before the behaviour, so that this becomes the signal for the behaviour.
  • Once you have repeated and have this reliably occurring after you have presented your stimulus (cue, SD etc) you may not want to use the clicker
  • Now you should ONLY reinforce the behaviour when it happens after you have presented your CUE (SD, antecedent etc) and not when it happens any other time.
The process will then be:
  • CUE (SD etc)- Behaviour- Consequence
  • Also called ABC (antecedent behaviour consequence)
  • Or SRS (stimulus-response-stimulus) contingency
  • Antecedent (cue, SD etc)  & Consequences are BOTH stimuli
  • You will only reward the behaviour WHEN it happens after you have given the signal (cue, SD, antecedent)
  • This can be used to get behaviours on cue (SD, antecedent) or under stimulus control
  • This means that the behaviour does not occur unless you ASK for it with your specific signal (cue, SD etc)
  • You are then said to have the behaviour under stimulus control
  • Do not forget that learning is tied into context so it might not be easily generalised to other places, people or environments. If this is the case you need to take it back to the beginning!
This is part of the essential poster pack and highlights types of problem behaviour (we hope the smoking dog does not offend anyone)

SMOKING Which Type Of Behaviour Problem-

This Poster (also in the pack) Shows The Optimum Conditions For Learning

Why Dogs Do Not Learn (5)


Other Posters In The Pack Are Featured In The Gallery Below
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