What is Clicker Training?

Most of these concepts are written in detail in the other articles, I'll link them for easy reading. I put this together as a basic overview to get started.
Clicker Training is essentially, reward based training. We mark and reward the behaviors we like to encourage them to happen more. We mark them with a distinct sound (or "Bridge Signal") often a clicker. The unique sound has been Classically Conditioned to tell the horse that a reward is soon to come. Using this bridge signal we can encourage far more precise behaviors, marking at the right time we can shape behaviors to be bigger or better in whatever way we like. We can also capture behaviors that happen naturally or encourage behaviors to happen with targeting or luring (following either a target or food to get the behavior you like). Once the behavior has been reinforced and is happening consistently, the horse will usually begin to "offer" you their behavior then you can put it on cue. You can use any cue you like, verbal, visual, tactile or situational. Begin by adding the cue while the behavior is being offered, until it feels like they've "got it". Then alternate two different cues (touch target/back up for example) until they learn to differentiate the predictor. At this point you're no longer rewarding them for offering the behavior, only when it was cued. You'll want to practice this in a number of situations, places and variations (from their back, from the ground, inside/outside, home or away). Once you have a few behaviors on cue and well reinforced, behaviors the horses like to perform, those behaviors become what we call "Secondary Reinforcers" this is something that they have learned to love. It becomes reinforcing because of it's history of reinforcement with a "Primary Reinforcer" (something the learner instinctively wants/needs). Once the behavior is a secondary reinforcer, it can be used to reinforce other behaviors - creating a behavior chain.

This is all wonderful for training new behaviors, but what about getting rid of behaviors you don't want? There are technically 8 ways, but most reward based trainers tend to choose among these four: Extinction, Changing the Motivation, Shaping the Absence, or (my favorite) Teaching an Incompatible Behavior. Though mixing and matching depending on the behavior may be required. Many unwanted behaviors happen due to fear, luckily positive reinforcement allows us a great way of helping horses deal with and overcome their fear

"Clicker Training" isn't always only about clicking and treating, or creating or eliminating behaviors, but rather a wholesome way of working with our domestic animals that is safe and happy for all involved. One way we can be more well rounded in keeping our horses happy and healthy is by providing proper enrichment in their lives. A properly enriched animal will often have far fewer vices or behavioral problems. They're usually happier and more thoughtful, learning to problem solve and control their environments gives them self confidence and pride. There is so much more, but I hope this helps anyone interested in learning about Reward Based Training and how to use it safely and effectively.

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