During our Behavior block during Neurology, we learned basic animal training techniques. One of the training approaches we explored was clicker training. To gain exposure to various methods, we participated in a training lab. Clicker training requires pairing a “click” with a primary positive reinforcer of behavior, such as food, via classical conditioning. Once the animal associates the “click” with a positive reward, the clicks can be used to operantly condition a particular desired response.
Before we were allowed to practice our training techniques with a dog, we gained experience clicker training our classmates to perform a particular action. Only the people using the clicker knew which action they wanted to the “subject” to perform. In very slow steps, as they did something similar to the desired action, the trainer would click and then give them an M&M until eventually, the subject learned what it was he or she was supposed to do.
It was rather hilarious to witness the creativity and level of difficulty some trainers put into the tricks they wanted their subject to perform. From jumping on one foot, to spinning in circles, or even untying another classmate’s shoes, clicker training each other was fun and definitely helped me to memorably and effectively gain experience with clickers. But even more importantly, I quickly learned that no matter how much we may pretend that we are mature, sophisticated adults, vet students are still food-motivated individuals who will most definitely work for M&Ms.