The Importance of Marker Training.
When training dogs, everything HAS to be black and white. There cannot be any gray area. Dogs learn best when there are strict guidelines as to what is right and what is wrong. In order to better help our dogs understand the difference between right and wrong, we use a concept called marker training. Marker training is essentially a clear-cut and very precise way of letting our dogs know “yes, you’re doing something right” or “no, you’re doing something wrong, try again”.
First, we’ll explain the different types of markers that we utilize in dog training. There are a couple of different markers we as trainers use: 1) verbal markers or 2) clickers. Verbal markers are words such as “good”, “no”, or even a very distinct sound such as a click of the tongue. On the other hand, clickers are a handheld training tool that make a very distinct “click” sound. Clickers provide the dog with the most concise marker because the sound is the exact same each time, whereas verbal markers can always differentiate in tone and inflection. Choose what marker best fits your needs!
Now, onto the good stuff. How do we actually implement marker training into dog training? First off, we must teach the dog that the marker=reward. To do this, we simply say our marker word(or click our clicker” and immediately follow it up with a reward. At this stage, we are not asking for any behavior from the dog. We are simply helping the dog understand what exactly the marker means. With time, your dog will begin to understand that the marker, whether it be “good” or the use of a clicker, means “you’re doing something right and have a reward coming!” To test your dog’s understanding, you can wait for your dog to get distracted, give them your marker, and if they do indeed understand, they should immediately come back to you to receive their reward! Once your dog is at this level of understanding, you can now implement your marker into teaching a behavior!
So how exactly do we use our marker to teach a behavior? We’ll use the most simple example of teaching your dog ‘sit’. First, you must choose what you want your marker to be. We use the verbal marker “good” for most dogs because it is the most convenient for us. It’s important to keep your marker the same until your dog has a thorough understanding of it. So don’t choose the word “good” and then change it to “yes” before your dog understands! Once you choose your marker, then you can find a treat your dog really enjoys and begin luring your dog into the sit position. The SECOND, literally the second, that your dog’s butt hits the floor, MARK the behavior with your marker and follow up with their favorite treat! So in other words, lure the dog into a sit, the dog’s butt hits the ground, say “good” and then follow it up with a reward. With enough repetitions, your dog will begin to understand that putting their butt on the ground gets the reward! They will begin to offer the behavior quicker and more eagerly in order to get the treat! REMEMBER: even when using your marker to teach a behavior, the reward must follow immediately after you give the marker so that your dog continues to make the correlation between your marker and the reward they’re being given. Eventually, once you’ve gotten marker training down-pat, you’ll be able to utilize it to teach your more dog more difficult tricks with ease!
Similarly, we can use marker training to teach a dog that what they’re doing is wrong and they need to try something different. This is attained simply by saying “no” when your dog does something wrong and immediately following it up with a correction, be it by leash, prong, or e-collar. The dog will eventually understand that the marker word “no” means “you’re doing something wrong and a correction will follow”.
All in all, marker training is one aspect of dog training that can make all of our lives a lot easier, including our dogs’. As we stated above, dog training needs to be black and white with no gray area. Our dogs rely on us to set rules, boundaries, and structure in their lives, and marker training is one way that we can achieve that!
Things to keep in mind:
•Timing is everything!
•Make your marker as consistent as possible (i.e. don’t change your tone of voice if using a verbal marker)
•In the beginning stages, ALWAYS follow up your marker with a reward/correction timeshare your dog makes that connection!
Ridgeside K9 Carolinas
Dog training in Jacksonville, North Carolinas and surrounding areas.
Puppy, obedience training and aggression rehabilitation.