behavioranalysishistory / Modern Training and Clicker Training for Pet Owners
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Modern Training and Clicker Training for Pet Owners

This page is part of the History of Animal Training and Behavior Analysis section. 


     Keller Breland and Marian Breland of Animal Behavior Enterprises were the first people to use a clicker for dog training. They used a tin toy crickets. Although the Brelands tried to promote clicker training with dog owners in the 1940s and 1950s, they were before their time and clicker training failed to catch on with pet trainers. Clicker training and positive reinforcement training, as well the value of understanding the principles of operant conditioning, did not start to become widespread with pet owners until the late 1980s and early 1990s.


            In 1984, Karen Pryor, a former dolphin trainer, published Don’t Shoot the Dog: The New Art of Teaching and Training, which explained concepts such as reinforcement, punishment and stimulus control in ways that the average pet owner could understand and make use of. Also, in the early 1990s, Karen Pryor and Gary Wilkes started giving seminars about clicker training to dog owners. Their first training seminar was held in San Franscisco in 1992, after Karen Pryor gave a lecture at the annual conference for the Association of Behavior Analysis.


Karen Pryor explains some about the rise of clicker training in these two articles on her website:

The History of Clicker Training: Part 1 by Karen Pryor 

The Hisotry of Clicker Training: Part 2 by Karen Pryor


Interviews with early promoters of clicker training for pet dogs:

Interview Karen Pryor, dolphin trainer and author of Don’t Shoot the Dog

Interview with Bob Bailey, of Animal Behavior Enterprises

Interview with Morgan Spector, author of Clicker Training for Obedience

Interview with Debi Davis, service dog trainer.


Clicker Training Spreads to Horse Owners


As the number of people using clicker training with pet dogs grew, clicker training quickly caught on with pet owners of other species as well. In 1998, Alexandra Kurland published her first book, Clicker Training for Your Horse. This was followed by several other books as well as a series of videos. Her workshops around the United States and world have helped horse owners and riders learn how to use positive reinforcement training with their horses.


Of particular historical note is Panda, the first miniature horse to be trained as a guide animal for a woman who is blind. Alexandra Kurland’s website contains a series of reports about the process she used to train Panda.  Panda proved that with the right training, miniature horses were intelligent enough to be used as seeing eye animals. Click here for a video clip of Panda at work. 


The video clip below outlines some of the major accomplishments in the first decade of clicker training with horses.




What Kind of Pet Can't You Train with Clicker Training?!


Currently, clicker training is used by pet owners of every species imaginable, including dogs, cats, horses, rats, rabbits, ferrets, parrots, hamsters and even goldfish! In 2008 Dean Pomerleau and his son developed the R2 Fish School Fish Training Kit, which teaches fish owners about operant conditioning and positive reinforcement, while providing them with equipment and training plans to turn their fish into a superstar. 



More information about clicker training with your pets:


Karen Pryor’s website:

Articles, training 101 section, online bookstore.


Clicker Expo:

A twice yearly conference for clicker trainers 


Clicker Solutions:

general articles about clicker training


Getting started clicker training with cats:


Alexandra Kurland's website:

Information about clicker training with horses


Barbara Heidenreich's website:

Information about training parrots and other pet birds