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Marker Training Dogs Effectively, Speeds Up Training

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Marker Training Your Dog to Speed Up the Learning Process.

Marker training is simple and effective. A marker is a sound (either from a clicker or a word such as “Yes!”) that marks the exact moment an animal performs a desired behavior. When charged up, the marker tells your dog that they did something good and that a reward is coming.

I like to use the word “yes!” because it eliminates the need to carry a clicker around wherever I go. (I always have my mouth with me!).

The reward can be food, treats, a toy, physical touch or praise. Marker training is a very effective way to speed up the training process.  In the beginning a high value treat is most effective.

Marker training is simple and fun for you and your dog!

To teach the marker:

  • Say the marker word “Yes!” (or click the clicker).
  • Immediately give your dog a treat.
  • Repeat 10-15 times each session for a few days.
  • Repeat whenever he is doing something good or when he least expects it.
  • Use some kibble from his breakfast or dinner to do a few rounds.
  • You are ready to move on to using the marker word for training when you can tell that your dog is excited as soon as he hears the word or click and before you hand him a treat!
  • The dog now associates the sound with a reward. He hears the sound, here comes a reward.

With marker training there are only two consequences to a behavior that we are trying to train. They are a reward or no-reward.

For dogs to associate a behavior with a consequence the consequence must come immediately after the behavior.

With training timing is everything.

The consequence (reward) must come within a 1/2 second of the behavior.

If a reward comes 5 seconds after a behavior the dog has no idea why he is getting a reward.

In training, it is not always possible to reward within a 1/2 second. In fact, no matter how hard you try you cannot consistently reward (get the treat to your dog’s mouth) a dog within 1/2 second. To get around this we use the marker as a bridge to connect the time frame between the behavior and the consequence that follows.

A simple way to look at the marker as a bridge is that it is like telling your dog “Wait a moment- I like what you just did and here comes the reward.”

There are positive (Yes!) and negative markers. The word for a negative Marker is “NO”, “NOPE.” or “Oops” It is important to mention that a negative marker is not a correction. It is simply a way of letting your dog know that he just made a mistake and if he wants to get the reward he needs to do the behavior correctly.

Marker training teaches your dog to become a problem solver. They have learned (through the concept of negative reinforcement) that when one behavior doesn’t work they need to try something else and if that doesn’t work they just keep trying because if they try long enough they have a good chance of figuring out what you want and getting the reward.

Marker training allows you to reinforce good behavior with “spot on accuracy”. It also allows your dog to make mistakes and then learn from them. It also allows you to mark the exact moment your dog makes a mistake, without correcting the dog in the process.

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