Force Free Training

There is nothing more fun to watch than a dog just being a dog!

Force Free Training helps dogs to learn in a way that allows for creativity and gives them the opportunity to let their true personalities shine through.  The joy of watching a dog figure things out and have that “aha” moment is indescribable.

Force Free Training (also often referred to as Positive Reinforcement Training) could be simply defined as “rewarding good behaviour” – reinforcing desirable behaviour with something the animal wants, something they find reinforcing.

The most telling thing about Force Free Training, in particular Marker Training or Clicker Training, is that you can train absolutely any animal using these methods.  You can train a fish, you can train a cat, you can train a hermit crab, you can train a lion, you can even train humans –  not kidding – check out this website  –  Imagine having to slap a choke collar on a lion, or take down an elephant in an “alpha roll” – you can’t do it – but you CAN train any animal with marker training and every one of them enjoys the process.

The following are some popular methods of training that use Force Free techniques and Positive Reinforcement:

Clicker Training

(information taken from Karen Pryor Clicker Training –
Popularized by Karen Pryor – renowned marine mammal trainer, Clicker Training is a method of training animals based on behavioural psychology that relies on marking desirable behaviour and rewarding it.

Desirable behavior is usually marked by using a “clicker,” a mechanical device that makes a short, distinct “click” sound which tells the animal exactly when they’re doing the right thing. This clear form of communication, combined with positive reinforcement, is an effective, safe, and humane way to teach any animal any behavior that it is physically and mentally capable of doing.

How Does Clicker Training Work?

The trainer clicks at the moment the behavior occurs: the horse raises its hoof, the trainer clicks simultaneously. The dog sits, the trainer clicks. Clicking is like taking a picture of the behavior the trainer wishes to reinforce. After “taking the picture,” the trainer gives the animal something it likes, usually a small piece of food but sometimes play, petting, or other rewards.

Very soon (sometimes within two or three clicks), an animal will associate the sound of the click with something it likes: the reward. Since it wishes to repeat that pleasurable experience, it will repeat the action it was doing when it heard the click.

Any behavior can be trained with any animal following these three simple steps: 

  1. Get the behavior.
  2. Mark the behavior.
  3. Reinforce the behavior.

This link from Karen Pryor’s website explains Clicker Training in more detail and answers such questions as:

  1. How do clicker trainers ask for behaviours?
  2. What if the animal does not obey the cue?
  3. Why don’t clicker trainers use punishments as well as rewards?
  4. How can clicker training be used to get rid of behaviours?

Some Great Clicker Trainers and Their Informative Websites:

  1. Karen Pryor’s Clicker Training Website –
  2. Gail Fisher –
  3. Susan Garrett’s Say Yes Dog Training
  4. Kay Laurence
  5. Alexandra Kurland
  6. Sue Ailsby

Marker Training

Marker Training and Clicker Training are very similar and many of the same concepts apply.  The two biggest differences are that Marker Training uses a verbal marker rather than a mechanical clicker; and that Marker Trainers tend to use a Marker to identify when you have earned no reward as well as a Marker to identify a behaviour that has earned a reward.

Clicker Trainers choose not to mark an incorrect response because it is believed that doing this will actually impede learning to some extent.  This is due in part to the powerful effect the sound of the mechanical clicker has directly on the brain.  When you get an incorrect response to a cue or no response to a cue, for clicker trainers, the lack of a click is enough information to convey that no reward is coming.

Often, Marker Training and Clicker Training are combined and many trainers using clickers will also use a verbal marker for times when a clicker is inconvenient or simply not at hand.

Lure Reward Training

One of the most widely known forms of Positive Reinforcement Training is Lure Reward Training – although you may not even be aware that you are doing it!

Lure Reward Training involves giving a cue like “Sit” or “Down” then using a piece of food (usually) in front of the dog’s nose to lure him into the corresponding physical position, praise and reward him once the position is achieved by giving him the food.  Lure Reward Training is an easy and fast way to train many simple obedience cues.  The trick is to make sure that your Lure doesn’t turn into a Bribe.

A good article on Lures, Rewards and Bribes:

For the basics of Lure Reward Training and articles and instruction on the steps for training Sit, Stay, Down, Stay, Come, Follow, Heel and Emergency Sit click here for information from the Dog Star Daily website: