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Clicker Training Farm Animals (with Video)

| 7/15/2019 11:12:00 AM

Clicker Training with Ducks 

Photo By Fala Burnette, Wolf Branch Homestead

Most of the jobs I have held in my young adult life were centered around the animal care field. Working at animal shelters, you see a variety of behavioral issues that not only cause animals to be surrendered, but also to be returned after previously being adopted. Shortly after being introduced to clicker training by another worker, who was passionate about improving the chances of adoptability in the animals, I implemented it into the handling of my work as well.

Clicker training involves the marking and rewarding of a positive behavior response in an animal- you are helping them note the moment they did something right, and rewarding them for it. It begins by associating the sound of the clicker with a reward, in most cases the reward being food. While the sound is usually made by a handheld clicker that makes a loud sound when you push down on the button, some people choose to mark the action with a verbal cue such as a cluck, or simply saying a word such as "good".

The click must be immediately followed by the reward for effectiveness, so that they associate the sound with the reward. Once you have repeated this step, you then move on to marking the desired type of behavior with a click-reward. For instance, in teaching a dog to sit, you click and treat immediately when the desired behavior is performed. During this process, you also associate the word or hand signal with the action by giving it to the animal to ask them for that response. The process requires repetition and patience, but is an effective training method that is non-violent.

From a young age, I was interested in studying the body language and behavior of the animals at my Grandmother's farm, in order to better understand how I handled them. When I was researching clicker training for shelter animals, however, I was guilty at the time of thinking it could not work for livestock and poultry. I eventually discovered the work of the late Dr. Sophia Yin, who promoted low stress handling in animals, and noted that she had videos and articles about clicker training for horses and even chickens! It served as inspiration for further studying how a positive reward system could benefit livestock/poultry and their handlers.

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