When Jerasic World came out this past summer clicker trainers were all abuzz about the use of the clicker with the dinosaurs.
Jurassic World: Clicker Training Controversy
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The following post contains spoilers for the movie Jurassic World.
Whether or not you’ve seen the movie yet, you may have heard about the uproar that professional animal trainers are in over the film’s portrayal of clicker training.
The film’s main character Owen Grady, played by Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy, Parks and Recreation), is first introduced in a scene where he is clicker training velociraptors.
For clicker trainers, this was painful to watch!
Here are the mistakes that were made:
- Clicking repeatedly.
The most obvious and annoying mistake in this Jurassic World scene was undoubtedly how the clicker was used. The clicker was actuated in rapid succession by Owen. Clickers are actually meant to be clicked once for a specific behavior, followed immediately by a reward (and not from such a far or high up distance!).1
- Not clicking then treating raptors one by one. Not using on one raptor at a time.
A clicker is typically used on one animal at a time. If a trainer were working with multiple dogs or animals, they would likely click then treat a dog and move onto the next for another click and treat rather than clicking for all of them and then rewarding. When all of the animals are clicked at once, the behavior being clicked for may be different for each at the precise moment the sound is heard (that is the event that’s being marked in their mind for reinforcement).
Semi unrelated, but I noticed that Pratt says “I imprint on them” (referring to developing a trusting relationship with the raptors). Imprinting is a socialization period in which animals learn, not something that is done to animals (to the best of my knowledge, although others may semantically disagree).
For puppies, imprinting occurs between eight weeks and four months of age and is often why dog trainers encourage people to begin training and socialization while young. If you had a raptor, wouldn’t you want to train it while it’s young?!
Why clicker training was portrayed this way
From a filmmaker perspective, I could see how it would be difficult to shoot a first person view of using the clicker for emphasizing it. This is likely why the clicker was clicked repeatedly, in order to illustrate the sound, as one click could have possibly slipped by audiences. Although I’m no Steven Spielberg, I suspect that clicking multiple times allowed viewers to cue in on what was going on in the scene (no pun intended!).
Although painful to watch as a clicker trainer, I for one am happy that clicker training was brought to the attention of pop culture. Hopefully this will help the use of aversion methods and devices to become prehistoric (pun intended!). Overall, I consider this a win for clicker training and I hope you do, too.
And here’s a You Tube video with some pretty good advice for clicker trainers about proper use of the clicker and treats: