Clicker training

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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)[1]. The click bridges the time between the desired behavior and the presentation of the reward[1]. A target stick providing a visual guide for the animal can be used for the training.

Clicker training with mice using a target stick. Left: The mouse is following the target stick and is climbing on the experimenter's hand. If the hand is lifted, the mouse will remain on the palm of the hand. Right: The mice are trained in a group. Two mice are following the target stick on the palm of the experimenter's hand.

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[2].

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:

Mice: entering a tunnel, following a target stick, climbing on the palm of the hand[3]

Rats: following a target stick, voluntarily change to a cage, observational learning[2]

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[4].

  1. 1.0 1.1 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.
  2. 2.0 2.1 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.
  3. 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.
  4. "Positive Reinforcement Training in Large Experimental Animals" (PDF).

Experts for clicker training in mice and rats: TARC, Mainz, Germany

This page was created and edited by KH191219 (talk).