My wife and I saw a great movie over the weekend.

The movie?

“The Life Of Pi.”

Pretty good flick. I won’t spoil it for you but it is about a young man that gets stuck on a small rescue boat with a tiger. It is a much deeper story but that is the basic gist of it.

Anyway, when you are on a boat with a tiger and food is scarce, you quickly become the main item on the menu.

The young man, Pi, has to build a raft and hang out next to the boat and at one point tries to train the tiger.

He has a whistle and attempts to make the tiger sick every time he blows the whistle.

That is classical conditioning. Associate a sound with a consequence.

Watching this scene, I wanted to tell Pi that he would have better results if instead of using a negative consequence he offered a positive consequence.

You see, in order to do clicker training, you have to understand classical and operant conditioning.

The sound of the clicker is first associated with a positive consequence. You don’t ask the dog to do anything. You simply click and then deliver the treat.

You repeat this over and over until the dog hears the click and KNOWS the treat is coming.

Once your dog is “classically conditioned” to the sound of the clicker, you then switch to operant conditioning.

Operant conditioning is when you start using the sound of the click to reward a specific behavior.

So if you dog does a sit command, the second your dog’s butt hits the deck you click and then treat.

The click communicates to your dog that she has done a behavior you wanted. Repeat it enough times and your dog learns the command “sit” or whatever command you want to teach.

Pretty cool stuff. And once you understand how classical and operant conditioning works, you can train any animal: cats, birds, horses, dolphins, killer whales, tigers and dogs.

Our friend Pi would have gotten better results using a positive instead of a negative consequence because negative consequences tend to make us grumpy and put us in a foul mood.

Not the best conditions for training.

But a very, very good movie.

Before taking off, one more thing:

I put together a video on The Ultimate Online Recall Course showing the exact steps to follow for clicker training and using clickers to teach your dog to come when called.

You can check it all out here:

Always Come When Called