From Training Chickens to Training Dogs

I’ve known about the “clickers” that are used in dog training, but I had no idea the concept originated with training chickens. Modern Farmer has the details on Ryan’s Chicken Training Camps in Sequim, Washington, which attracts a number of dog trainers and other people every September:

The last decade and a half have seen their methods — most often called “clicker training” — become ubiquitous in the worlds of professional and amateur dog training. Trainers use a marker, usually a toy clicker, as a bridge between a desired behavior and the animal’s reward. “A click is like taking a picture,” explains Ryan. “It takes a shot that shows what gives the animal the reward.”

With a dog, you can take a few seconds noticing a behavior, marking it with a click and offering a treat. Man’s best friend is rather forgiving. With a chicken, the sequence needs to happen more or less instantly. When animal behaviorist Dr. Sophia Yin attended one of the Baileys’ first chicken training camps, she learned to tape a clicker to a measuring cup full of feed. She then practiced clicking, then offering the chicken a quick peck. One click dropped seed, and the chicken would go scurrying off the training table and onto the floor.

If you can train a chicken, you can train a dog:

Clicker-trained chickens can complete obstacle courses, discriminate between colors and shapes, remember routes through obstacle courses and even play simple tunes on a children’s xylophone.


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