Clicking Dinosaurs

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We’ve long touted the success of clicker training with animals of all sizes and species—from a 5,000-pound rhino to a .3-gram butterfly, as described in Ken Ramirez’s recent Letter. Others are catching on—including Hollywood! In the new blockbuster movie Jurassic World, the Jurassic Park game warden, Owen (played by Hollywood heartthrob Chris Pratt), uses a clicker to manage the behavior of the park’s most deadly, and defiant, species: the raptor.

Before you rush to the movies to learn how to train your own dinosaur, there is one caveat. Pratt’s character is using the clicker as a noisemaker to get the attention of the velociraptor, not to mark behavior for a job well done (not eating the people, for example).

As trainers, we sometimes forget that clickers have been around for a long time and that we did not invent them. Some trainers use them as a “No Reward Marker (NRM),” while others use them as a “Recall.” We use a clicker as a “Marker.” The film does not use the clicker as a marker, but instead takes advantage of the fact that the click sounds like the velociraptor hunting call.

In the zoo world, the clicking sound is very familiar to many species of animals, and for different reasons (tree kangaroos and certain species of primates use the clicking sounds as an alarm call). With those species, the clicker cannot be used to mark behavior, as it already has a different meaning in that animal's world.

Even though the clicker is not being used as a marker, we are happy to see its cameo appearance on the silver screen. One more example of how the clicker has the power to change the world—and in this case, maybe even save it (you’ll just have to see the movie to find out)!  

For an entertaining overview of the use of the clicker in Jurassic World, including quotes from our very own Karen Pryor, see How to Clicker Train a Raptor (or Any Other Animal)