Is Clicker Training More Effective Than Verbal Cues With Shelter Dogs?

First Name: 
Last Name: 
Major Department: 
Psychology and Sociology
Thesis Director: 
Kenneth Steele
Date of Thesis: 
Dec 2013

Wood (2009) reported behavior acquisition occurred in significantly fewer minutes when training with a clicker rather than a verbal cue for shelter dogs.  This thesis replicated Wood (2009) by comparing the acquisition of the same response by shelter dogs when using a clicker or verbal conditioning.  Sixteen dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) were chosen for the study.  These dogs were selected from the Watauga Humane Society (WHS) through the assistance of WHS staff and a professional clicker-trainer.  The 16 subjects were divided into two groups, clicker and verbal cue.  Those assigned to the clicker group were signaled by a click once the desired response was completed, while those assigned to the verbal cue group were signal by the verbal cue “Good.”  The target behavior was to touch the nose to a foam ball.  Each dog was exposed to his or her assigned stimulus, which acted as a conditioned stimulus (CS), after 20 pairings of a food treat the unconditioned stimulus (US).  The dogs were exposed to the sequence of shaping steps used in Wood (2009) that were to end in acquisition of the response on nose-touching the target.  The prediction was that clicker training would produce faster acquisition of the target response.  The results were that no dog acquired the target response although clicker trained dogs proceeded further through the training sequence.  Possible reasons for the discrepancy between the current results and those reported by Wood (2009) are discussed.