Have you ever used a clicker? Or a verbal marker? These are both tools used in positive reinforcement training. They’ve gained popularity over the last couple of decades because of the amazing impact they can have.
The clicker ‘takes a snapshot’ of the exact behaviour that is getting reinforced. The clarity provided to the dog reduces frustration, improves understanding and speeds up training.
Another benefit of using a clicker is buying the trainer some time. If they fumble to get a treat out of their pocket, no problem. The dog already knows what behaviour they are getting reinforced for. Does the dog move out of position after the click? No worries. What matters has already happened, and the dog knows it.
On the other hand, when only a string of praise and a treat is used, there can be a lack of clarity and consistency. The dog most likely thinks what was happening just as they got the treat was the winning behaviour. This can lead to inaccuracy and slow down results.
Occasionally a parent in their first class says they don’t want to bother with a clicker. “That’s OK”, I reply with a smile on my face. The following week, without fail, they opt in when they see the difference between their dog’s progress and the rest of the class. Sometimes people just need to see for themselves.