About Gary Wilkes and “Real Clicker Training”


Gary Wilkes has more than 30 years working with animals – 8 in the humane industry in every capacity other than executive director. He has worked for the last 25 years as a behaviorist and trainer. He created clicker training for dogs between 1987-1992. When Gary and Karen Pryor introduced clicker training to dog trainers, he had already clicker trained more than 1,000 dogs, primarily by veterinary referral. Now that number is around 7500 plus and growing.  His consultant list includes MIT, The Seeing Eye, US Army Special Ops Dog Training Command and many others. He has years more experience using clicker training at the highest levels of difficulty than anyone else. If he makes a definitive statement it’s the result of direct experience over many years with many dogs. i.e. It’s not speculation. You can take it to the bank.

Author’s Note: If you see a trend in topics here it is because this blog is a reflection of what’s not being said in the mainstream of clicker training and modern behavior modification. It is intended to balance the  discussion. i.e. Nobody talks objectively about the use of reinforcement AND punishment in training. I do because effective treatment demands both and I have never been either “all positive” or “all negative.” Obviously, the material is based on my knowledge and what I feel like writing. So, enjoy it or don’t. If you have a comment that asks a logical question or makes a logical point it will be treated with great respect. If you simply wish to object because something doesn’t match your ideology, I will remove it or contest your opinion at my discretion. Be prepared to state your experience and credentials or cite valid references. I take this very seriously.

Gary Wilkes

20 thoughts on “About Gary Wilkes and “Real Clicker Training”

  1. I enjoyed reading your “Towards a Less Coercive World” article. I am an avid performance obedience sport dog trainer along enjoying other dog sports. My question is why do you use a clicker verses your verbal marker? I’ve always been puzzled by this. I have used clicker in the past but I much prefer my verbal “yes” then the reward. Thanks, Mitzi Tinaglia, Roanoke, VA

    • I would assume Mitzi that he uses a clicker because it has been scientifically proven that the sound of the clicker can be more precise in terms of timing but is also processed by the brain more quickly and effectively Personally I use the clicker and ‘yes’ in sequence and simply ‘yes’ when I do not have clicker to hand.

      • A clicker is totally unambiguous. That’s fine if you happen to have a clicker to hand. Using a variety of markers not only adds interest and variety for the dog it also serves to proof the stimulus.

        • Richard, that’s like saying that though a screw driver is the best tool to drive a screw, you don’t always have one so having a butter knife is somehow advantageous.

          I would suggest you write on a piece of paper the qualities necessary to create an efficient marker for creating new behaviors or maintaining existing behaviors. That may help you think through the topic in the same way examining the qualities of a screw driver help to define the tool.

  2. So nice to rediscover you, Gary. You’ve always been a voice of reason in the world of dog training. My rediscovery and the opportunity to read your posts here came at a good time. I was just informed that my opinions on dog training were invalid because I don’t have an advanced degree in psychology. *sad head shake*

  3. Gary I am impressed with your no nonsense way of presenting thought provoking ideas. I like that.. I would like to learn understand more about what you are doing…

  4. Wow, just stumbled on this blog and was pleased to discover you are still around! We met/I went to several of your seminars here in New England in the late 90’s YOU are single handedly responsible for changing how I trained dogs. Thank you so much!

    • Jackie, I stated what would cause me to remove a comment. I do not allow people to commandeer this platform to spout their own ideological position. If someone posts a contradictory statement you will find it here – if it is cogent and respectful. As I know you are very biased on your opinions that would not prevent me from posting anything you wish to ask or comments that pertain to the topic at hand in a respectful way. However, you posted this comment as a passive aggressive, one might say snarky, jab. If you had taken the time to actually read the information in my blog you’d see that I have no problem engaging people in spirited debate.

    • Umm…that speculative remark could be made of literally any blog or website.
      In other words, it contributes nothing, means nothing.

      • What speculative remark? If you are going to make a definitive statement it helps if you include something that defines the topic.

  5. Gary, I learned clicker training from you in the early 1990’s. Today, I am using those same skills to train the newest canine members of my family. I have used clicker training for every one of the six dogs that I have had in my home in the last 20 years or so. I can’t thank you enough! And I am so glad that you are still out there sharing your knowledge with others.

  6. I’m happy I ran into this blog as the result of your activity on other dog training websites. Keep up the good work Gary, I appreciate your deep intellectual writing and thorough prose. It’s quite soothing to engage in!

    Look forward to more posts and learning to train my dog in the best way possible.

  7. First of all , sorry my English, (im a brazilian girl!) I just have finished a basic dog training course of 20 days and enjoyed it so much that I would loke to become a dog trainner. So I started searching on the internet what are the relevants books, how and what to study, and after filling a notebook with names like Karen Pryor, Burch, Bailey and Reid , Pat Miller and etc , I found your blog! Its seems very enlightening and reasonable to me, and then I was left with many doubts about “what should i read??”. Could you direct me to some serious books so I can do my homework ?? Thanks for you time!! Wish you all the best!

  8. Being raised with my family grooming/kenneling facility ten feet away from our home, I had a lot of time to hone my craft in handling and training dogs, but your blogs continue to give me great insight and touch on the more intangible things. I have been training dogs, formally, for eight years now and I have been effectively training dogs for five years. When our business incorporated a dog rescue into our facility I was met with many oppositions to my no nonsense attitude with aggression and, at times, I believed I was wrong for not tolerating it, but then I was introduced to your teachings. So for five years now I have been effectively training, because I no longer question what works or wonder if I should use what I know doesn’t and I owe a great deal of that to you. Thank you for going against what’s popular and fighting for what’s right.

    • Brad,
      You had the best training in the world to be in this business. So few people realize that expertise cannot grow unless the foundation is very solid. Seeing all those dogs go by taught you ‘normal’ – which allows you to see minute deviation that others would miss. Thanks for the kind words!

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