What does bridging stimulus mean in clicker training dogs?
A bridging stimulus is merely a marker, whether it’s the clicker or a verbal sound, that indicates to the dog that she has completed the command or task effectively and that a treat will soon follow. It’s called a bridging stimulus because it provides information to the animal.
Both verbal markers and clickers are effective, but there are times when one may be better than the other; for instance, there may be a lot of noise or maybe some kids who always want to place with the clicker. If that’s the case, it’s probably a good idea to go with the verbal.
There are a lot of advantages to the clicker, though, such as:
• The clicker doesn’t communicate emotion, and keeping emotions out of a training session is critical to success. Every single intonation, inflection or body language gesture—even a sigh—can be picked up by the dog who is then thrown far off track.
• The clicker can stimulate and excite the dog. While you certainly don’t want to frighten the dog, some research in neurophysiology points to the fact that certain stimuli, such as bright lights or a sudden, sharp sounds, reach the Amygdala (the part of the brain responsible for information processing and memory) before going on the cortex, or thinking part, of the brain. Many suspect that it the reason why dogs seem to become more excited over the sound of the clicker.
NOTE: Sometimes a dog can be a little fearful of the clicker; in that case, you can use another sound, such as the clicking of a ballpoint pen or even a flashlight—and then work up to the clicker.
• The clicker makes a unique sound. How many times a day do we utter the words “yes” or “good.” Very often, these words can even be in our voicemail messages. Based on that fact alone, they have less impact than the distinctive and less common sound of the clicker.
• The timing can be more precise with a clicker. Precise timing is critical in the success of clicker training. Sometimes we are just tired, ill or preoccupied, resulting in a longer brain-to-mouth link with the verbal command.