Clicker training is an operant conditioning based on positive reinforcement. When the animal offers the desired behavior, a click or another distinctive sound (secondary reinforcer) is delivered and within the following few seconds the reward is presented (primary reinforcer). The click bridges the time between the desired behavior and the presentation of the reward. A target stick providing a visual guide for the animal can be used for the training.
Animals are usually trained individually, though it is also possible to perform clicker training in a groups, e.g. in mice, rats, and rabbits. For rats, it was demonstrated that they learned tasks by observing the clicker traníning of their cage mates.
Clicker training can be used to train animals in a stress-free way. The following behaviours are examples for what this technique can be used for:
Rats: following a target stick, voluntarily change to a cage, observational learning
Rabbits: following a target stick, rearing/standing up to inspect the abdomen, approaching a human, being touched and lifted by a human, trimming nails, coming on command
Pigs: Pigs can be easily trained to cooperate if they are treated empathetically and desired behavior is reinforced by providing food stuff in form of treats and apple juice.
- Feng, Lynna C.; Howell, Tiffani J.; Bennett, Pauleen C. (1 August 2016). "How clicker training works: Comparing Reinforcing, Marking, and Bridging Hypotheses". Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 181: 34–40. doi:10.1016/j.applanim.2016.05.012. ISSN 0168-1591.
- Leidinger, Charlotte Sophie; Kaiser, Nadine; Baumgart, Nadine; Baumgart, Jan (25 October 2018). "Using Clicker Training and Social Observation to Teach Rats to Voluntarily Change Cages". JoVE (Journal of Visualized Experiments) (140): e58511. doi:10.3791/58511. ISSN 1940-087X. PMC 6235608. PMID 30417890.
- Leidinger, Charlotte; Herrmann, Felix; Thöne-Reineke, Christa; Baumgart, Nadine; Baumgart, Jan (6 March 2017). "Introducing Clicker Training as a Cognitive Enrichment for Laboratory Mice". JoVE (Journal of Visualized Experiments) (121): e55415. doi:10.3791/55415. ISSN 1940-087X. PMC 5408971. PMID 28287586.
- "Positive Reinforcement Training in Large Experimental Animals" (PDF).
Experts for clicker training in mice and rats: TARC, Mainz, Germany