Marker Training: Why You Should be Using It With Your Dog

dog-139618_1280 marker trainingHow clearly do you communicate with your dog? Dogs appreciate clarity and consistency, and one way you can provide this is marker training. By always using the same word when your dog is doing what you ask correctly, you can help them learn more quickly.

WHAT IS MARKER TRAINING?

Marker training consists of pairing a word or sound with something that the dog highly values. Then you use that word or sound to indicate to the dog that he was successful. You can use a word (I use YES, although some people use OKAY or something similar),or you can use a clicker

HOW DO YOU START MARKER TRAINING? 

The first thing you need to do is choose your cue, then “charge your marker” by pairing the cue with a high value food reward. It should be something that the dog REALLY wants, and it’s the dog who has to find it valuable, not you. When I’m asking a dog to learn something new, or work especially hard, I use real meat, usually lightly cooked beef liver, or cut up boiled chicken. You then say your cue word and start handing out food like a vending machine. What this looks like in real life is : yes then treat, yes then treat. You do this over and over until the dog is looking for the treat as soon as you say yes.

WHAT IS MARKER TRAINING GOOD FOR?

At this point, you can use the marker both as a way of telling the dog that he’s successful, and it also becomes a release word, letting the dog know that whatever you asked him to do is complete.

Some other words that I use with my dogs is “good”, which lets them know that they’re doing the right thing, and to keep on doing it, and “no”, to let him know that he wasn’t doing what I asked, and that we’re going to try again.

Another advantage to using markers is that you can pinpoint the exact moment that the dog is successful without having to worry about getting a treat in his mouth at that exact moment. Ideally, you want to mark a behavior in two seconds or less for it to be moat effective. The farther out from the desired action you are, the less useful it is. You might accidentally be marking a behavior that you don’t want.

So, in a nutshell, you choose a marker word or sound, charge that marker with a high value reward through repetition, and then use that word to mark correct behavior.  This can be one of the most valuable tools in your dog training toolbox.

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