A very important concept that was discovered by Ivan Pavlov while he was doing research on the digestion of dogs is classical conditioning. Classical conditioning is a form of learning in which animals come to respond to a previously neutral stimulus that had been paired with another stimulus that elicits an automatic response. This type of learning can be used to teach animals and humans to carry out a certain behavior or eliminate a certain behavior. Some everyday examples can be seen in advertising, fears and phobias, fetishes, disgust reactions, and training animals.
Clicker training was the way my family and I decided to train our new puppy Bella when we got her two years ago.
I was hesitant at the idea of using a clicker to reinforce good behavior because I didn't understand how the noise of a clicker could tell the dog to continue a certain behavior. This became a lot clearer after learning about classical conditioning.
Training animals, and people for that matter, is not an easy task, but through classical conditioning it can be done. Training my dog simple things such as to sit when we told her to became a lot simpler using the clicker training. We conditioned our dog Bella to sit when she heard the noise of the clicker and then reinforced her with a treat. The clicker became the conditioned stimulus as it was now associated with a treat and then the conditioned response was her sitting. Eventually the treat was no longer needed to reinforce the behavior and then later on the clicker was able to be removed.
Here is an article that summarizes how to use clicker training and how the clicker becomes a conditioned stimulus:
Now the question is, does clicker training, a form of classical conditioning really work? In my experience yes! Eventually my dog continued to sit on command even without the clicker which is what we wanted the outcome to be!
Here is a youtube video that shows a dog being trained using a clicker:
Research has found that there are many benefits to clicker training. Besides having your pet trained to do simple commands and difficult tricks, your dog will actually continue to display these learned behaviors after the clicker has been removed. Some other benefits of clicker training is that...
1) it's a positive training method free of harsh corrections
2) you can train dogs of any age
3) it creates a deep bond between you and your dog because it's based on cooperation
4) proven by animal behaviorists and animal trainers for many years
5) accurately marks the end of the desired behavior, which means clearer communication with the dog
6) the clicker can take the place of the treats so you don't have to worry about overfeeding your dog and spending extra cash buying treats.
These findings overrule the other hypotheses that clicker training doesn't last or isn't an effective method of training animals. (Ruling out Rival Hypothesis) Not only does clicker training work effectively it can also be repeated with the same animals, different animals, in people and in different environments. (Replicability)
Overall, classical conditioning was a huge discovery by Pavlov and has proved its way in research and in my experiences to work very well on animals and people.